Lots of people had a great night on Thursday at the McGuire Center, but the best night easily belonged to Carsen Murray. The all-Big East middle blocker had a match high 12 kills while hitting .478 and adding a solo block and an assisted block to help propel #4 seeded Marquette volleyball to a 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-17) victory over Ball State in the first round of the 2022 NCAA tournament. The win moves MU along to the second round, and marks MU’s first NCAA tournament victory since 2019.
It looked like we were going to get a high quality back and forth contest in the early going between the regular season champs of the MAC and the Big East. Ball State went toe-to-toe with the Golden Eagles in the early going, keeping it even up through 9-9. Five of the next six points went in MU’s favor, capped by a kill from Hattie Bray, and that gave Marquette a four point advantage, 14-10. Still, Ball State was the best team in the MAC for a reason this season, and they kept plugging at it, pulling within one, 15-14. MU answered with three straight, including a Caroline Dragani ace, and that was the breathing room they needed. The closest that the Cardinals would get in the set would be two points at 20-18, and Aubrey Hamilton laid down a kill to close the first frame out.
MU went to work early in the second, jumping out to a 6-2 advantage and holding the line at 9-4 off a Murray kill. A 6-2 run by the Golden Eagles shuttled things along to the media timeout on ESPN+, and it was a 15-7 lead at that point. Ball State would manage to cut that lead in half thanks to a few miscues from Marquette, but they weren’t doing it in a hurry as the lead was still 18-14. Three straight from MU, including a solo block by Murray, prompted a timeout from the Cardinals, and that helped them trade points with Marquette... but that wasn’t enough. Bray put down a kill to give Ella Foti a chance to serve Marquette’s 25th point on an ace. 2-0 Marquette, and after a second straight set where the Golden Eagles hit north of .360, it seemed pretty clear where this was going.
If you thought the second set start was strong, then you love the beginning of the third. 7-1 Marquette out of the gate, including a kill by Foti immediately after the Cardinals called timeout at 6-1. The next stretch was probably the best run of the match for Ball State given the circumstances, as they went on a 9-3 stretch to pull within two points, 12-10. Looked like there might be something brewing to extend this contest to a fourth set, but nope. The next rally ended in a kill from Bray, and that triggered a 6-0 run by the Golden Eagles that went across Ball State’s final timeout of the evening. 18-10 Marquette, and it was just tray tables in the upright and locked position, please stow your carryons in the overhead bins from there. The closest that the visitors got from there was five points, including 22-17 after a Marie Plitt ace, but Murray’s final kill of the evening meant a side out for the Golden Eagles, and libero Carly Skrabak wrapped up the evening with a pair of aces. All quick enough to get me back in the car for the car ride home less than 90 minutes after the scheduled start time of 7pm Central.
I highlighted Carsen Murray’s absolutely great night at the top, but like I said, lots of Golden Eagles had big nights:
- Ella Foti had nine kills and hit .333 and added eight digs and two aces
- Hattie Bray had eight kills, hit .667 and chipped in an assisted block
- Aubrey Hamilton racked up nine kills while hitting .412, and added an assist, an assisted block, and four digs.
- Yadhira Anchante had 31 assists, two aces, six digs, a kill, and an assisted block
- Carly Skrabak had 13 digs and three aces to go with four assists
Lots to like, to be sure.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and ESPN+?
Up Next: MU will be back in action less than 24 hours after Thursday night’s match started. Georgia Tech swept Wright State in the first match of the doubleheader at the McGuire Center to earn themselves a spot in the second round as well. The #5 seeded Yellow Jackets will be on the other side of the net from the Golden Eagles starting at 6pm Central time on Friday, and ESPN+ will have the broadcast again. Marquette will be playing for the second Sweet 16 appearance in program history and the right to face either #1 seeded Texas or Georgia in the next round.