Marquette volleyball head coach Ryan Theis did the right thing, we have to say that up front.
But his decision to do the right thing extended Friday night’s match against Xavier to a fourth set before the Golden Eagles closed out a 3-1 (22-25, 25-12, 25-22, 25-20) victory. The win gets Marquette to 16-1 in the Big East and 25-2 overall as they run their winning streak to 10 straight matches, the second time this season that they have won at least 10 consecutive contests. The 16-1 record means that MU is one game behind 17-0 Creighton in the league standings with one game left to play, and wouldn’t you know it? Marquette hosts Creighton on Saturday evening.
Ryan Theis did the right thing, both in holding Senior Night on Friday to avoid the hullabaloo that will be Saturday night’s contest with the Bluejays, and also in starting all of his seniors against Xavier. It was the right thing to do..... it just did not work out for him at all in the slightest. Marquette went down 4-0 out of the gate and eventually 8-1 and 9-2 by the time he got his rotation to regular state that you would normally see from the Golden Eagles. It was not good, and you kind of feel bad that things went so poorly for MU’s seniors that aren’t libero Carly Skrabak that it happened that way. Marquette fought back diligently, eventually pulling within two at 21-19 and then one, 22-21, as part of a 4-1 burst late in the first set. They would stay within one at 23-22.... but that was the best that they could do to rally from that early hole, and Xavier took the first set.
MU took that personally, going up 5-2 and 10-5 and 12-6 and then running off six straight to lead 20-8 in the second set. There was no doubt about who was going to win that frame, and a kill from Jenna Reitsma made it official.
The third set started out with a bit of back and forth until a 5-1 run by the Golden Eagles put them up 10-7. That wasn’t enough to discourage Xavier, as they bounced back and tied it all up at 14 each on a Carrigan O’Reilly service ace. MU would get the next two, but five of the next seven went to Xavier, and it was 19-18 for the visitors with the end approaching. Marquette saw that finish line off in the distance and put in a kick: Following a Stevie Wolf service error, the Golden Eagles stacked a kill by Reitsma and Ella Foti alongside two aces from Skrabak and an attacking error by XU’s Delaney Hogan, and zoooom Marquette was up 24-19. Xavier staved off the ending with three straight points, but Ella Foti dealt out some power that XU’s block could not handle, and that was that.
It looked like Marquette was prepared to walk away with the fourth set no problem at all. A 5-1 start became a 7-2 advantage, which then turned into an 11-3 blast out of the gate in the frame. Xavier answered with an 11-4 run to pull within one, 15-14, after back-to-back bad sets by MU’s Yadhira Anchante. Drama! No, not really, not when the Golden Eagles got the next five and eight of the next 10. 23-16 Marquette, and after Theis subbed Hannah Vanden Berg and Claire Nuessmeier back in at the match point mark, it was Nuessmeier getting the final point of the contest on her Senior Night.
With things going to four sets, Marquette had four players get to double digits in kills, led by 15 from Aubrey Hamilton, but Ella Foti was right behind her with 14. Foti had the better night, hitting .423 but it’s not like Hamilton was slacking off at .353. Jenna Reitsma added 12 kills, including a couple of very precise tip kills right at the pin, while Hattie Bray added 10 kills from the middle. Yadhira Anchante did Yadhira Anchante things, putting up 49 assists on 66 kills across the four sets, not to mention her six kills and three digs. Hamilton and Reitsma both had double-doubles, putting up 11 and 12 digs each, but it was Carly Skrabak leading the way there with a big time 31.
Up Next: As mentioned up at the top, it’s the regular season finale and it’s #11 Creighton. The Bluejays got a 3-0 sweep of DePaul down in Chicago on Friday night and have already locked up at least a share of the Big East regular season title at 17-0 in league action. If Marquette can knock off the Bluejays, they will tie at 17-1 and end up as co-Big East champs. If it’s a three or four set win for MU, then the Golden Eagles will be the #1 seed in the conference tournament next weekend in Omaha.