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Marquette’s Season Ends In The Sweet 16

Turns out the #1 volleyball team in the country is pretty dang good, especially when they’re playing at home.

Jenna Reitsma Marquette University

The 2022 Marquette volleyball season came to an end on Thursday afternoon, falling in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament to Texas, the #1 seed in the region and #1 team in the AVCA top 25 poll, by a score of three sets to one. Marquette wraps up the campaign at 29-4 overall, setting a program record for fewest losses in a season.

There’s not a lot to say about an actual recap of what happened in this match. Texas is, um, really good. The Longhorns started out 7-0 in the first set, picking up two blocks and two service aces to push them along the way, and eventually led 11-1 and 15-2 on their way to a 25-14 first set win. Set #2 had Texas with a little bit of an early advantage, but trailing 11-8 after a kill by Hattie Bray isn’t the worst thing against the #1 team in the country. Then the Horns threw together eight straight points, boom, 19-8, and that set was effectively over. Three attack errors by the Golden Eagles in that stretch didn’t help things out, of course, and while MU did get a late flurry of points, it ended at 25-13, somehow actually slightly worse than the first set.

I presume the intermission message from Ryan Theis was something along the lines of “hey, you’re a good volleyball team, don’t worry about anything else than playing good volleyball for the next set.” Seems like that could have been the message, because that’s what Marquette did. The Golden Eagles struck out to a 9-4 lead in the early-ish going thanks to a 7-1 run, and then posted five straight just a little bit later to go up 14-6. Texas never got back within shouting distance, even after fending off three straight set points, and a kill from Carsen Murray gave Marquette the fourth set. This was just the 12th time this season that Texas lost a set at all and just the fourth time they dropped a set at their home facility.

Texas got the early edge in the fourth set, 7-3, but Marquette showed what they were made of by making the Longhorns push back against them. The lead didn’t get past four points until a 3-0 burst by Texas made it 18-12, and a kill by Jenna Reitsma and a solo block by Aubrey Hamilton pulled it right back to a four point margin. Still, it was 18-14 at that point, and it seems like Texas could tell they were close to a win. The final in the set was 25-17, an eight point difference, but that’s the story of the best team in the country closing out strong, not the story of how the whole thing went.

With Marquette hitting just .098 in the match thanks to those rough first two sets, the stat rundown isn’t as sparkly as you’d like to see. Jenna Reitsma hit .229 to lead MU with 12 kills in the match, and she finished with a double-double on a team high 11 digs as well. Hattie Bray got to 10 kills for a quality performance for her. Yadhira Anchante had just 30 assists on MU’s 39 kills, and the fact that she was so far off from averaging 10 per set tells you a lot of what happened in this one, as does Carly Skrabak wrapping up her her time at MU with 10 digs across four sets.

That’s the season, so we bid farewell to Marquette’s seniors: Caroline Dragani, Megan Lund, Claire Nuessmeier, Carly Skrabak, and Hannah Vanden Berg. They go out on a high note, earning back-to-back Big East regular season championships, something that has never happened for Marquette before, even before they were in the Big East, as well as getting to the third round of the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in program history. With the exception of Skrabak, who was MU’s libero this year, none of these women were rotation players for the Golden Eagles in 2022. They’re here because they want to be a part of this team and this program and this university, and they all had to sacrifice a little bit more than normal in their tenure at Marquette thanks to the dumbest pandemic of our lifetimes. A special tip of the cap goes to Hannah Vanden Berg, who wrecked her knee late in the 2021 season, but still fought her way back into playing form to appear in 11 of Marquette’s 33 matches this fall. We send a very big THANK YOU to all of these women for everything that they have done and given in their time at Marquette, and wish them nothing but the best in the future.