A bad start and an awful middle are part of the story, but the rest of it was pretty good at the McGuire Center on Saturday night as YOUR #19 ranked Marquette figured out a way to beat #25 Illinois 3-2. Your set scores in the match: 23-25, 25-20, 13-25, 25-19, and 15-11.
The thing to remember about this match is that Illinois lost in five sets to Illinois State at the McGuire Center in a match that started at 10 am Central time, and this one started at 6pm. Between postgame wrap up and then warmups for this one, the Illini were probably lucky if they had two actual hours of rest in between the two matches. With that in mind, you’d think that the Golden Eagles, who hadn’t played since Tuesday night, would have a teensy bit of an advantage.
That idea went straight out the door as Illinois went up 6-1 out of the gate in the first set, prompting a “hey, are we going to play volleyball or not?” timeout from MU head coach Ryan Theis. It took a while for Marquette to actually settle in as the Illini extend their lead to seven points at 11-4 on an error by MU setter Yadhira Anchante. Quite honestly, an awful start no matter how you look at it.
And yet, Jenna Reitsma swung on a kill to make it 14-14, and an error by Illinois’ Jessica Nunge put the Golden Eagles out in front 19-17. That’s a 15-6 run by the Golden Eagles, and that is some impressive volleyball no matter how you slice it..... but they had to play that kind of impressive volleyball just to lead by two. Illinois scored the next four and the two sides traded points the rest of the way before UofI’s Kennedy Collins wrapped it up.
The next set also started out badly for Marquette, as they fell behind 3-0 and then 5-2, and then 6-3 right away. Absolutely not what you want, not after that bad start and bad finish to the first set. But a double contact call against the Illini kicked off a 6-0 run by Marquette that featured two blocks and a kill by Carsen Murray and that put the home team up 13-9. Illinois immediately responded out of a timeout with four straight points, and that prompted a timeout from the Golden Eagles. Serving became the name of the game for a while second, as Anchante delivered two aces on the back of an error by Nunge, and it was 16-13 Marquette. Even when Illinois broke Marquette’s serve, they couldn’t get out of their own way, committing five service errors in total in the back half of the set, and a kill from freshman Ella Holmstrom pulled Marquette even at one set each.
The less said about the third set, the better. While MU scored first for the first time in the match on a block by Anchante and Hattie Bray, that was pretty much the last time something good happened for the Golden Eagles. They hit -.071 in the frame, fell behind early, and never got it back together in the slightest as Illinois won, 25-13.
On to the fourth, and finally Marquette had a strong start to a set. Sure, point #1 was yet another service error by the Illini, one of 15 total in the match by the visitors, but Ella Foti and Bray followed that up to give the Golden Eagles a 3-0 lead. While Illinois responded to tie the match at five in the early going, the positive vibes from the good start carried MU through the rest of the way. Marquette only hit .214 in the frame but they also took advantage of a match high eight hitting errors by the Illini to lead by as many as six, first at 14-8 and again a couple more times after that, and Foti got to wrap the set up to force the issue to a decisive fifth frame.
The two sides traded points to open things up, with MU scoring twice in a row first, but Illinois immediately tying it at five each. The set turned after they traded two more points as Carsen Murray racked up two kills and Foti got one to go as well to go up 9-6. That prompted a timeout from the Illini, and they would pull it back to a one point game out of the break.
But they couldn’t tie it. Ella Foti. A service error. Jenna Reitsma, followed right away by Hattie Bray to make it 13-10. Illinois was running out of space. A solo block from Anchante made it three straight for the Golden Eagles, and after one final point on a block on Bray, Aubrey Hamilton finalized the issue at 15-11.
I barely mentioned her in this recap because I was trying to capture the broad strokes of the thing instead of the music between the notes, but Jenna Reitsma was an absolute star in this match. By the end, it doesn’t look like it, even though she posted a career best 17 kills and hit .279. Illinois had absolutely no answer for her in the early parts of the match, as she gathered up 11 of her kills and was hitting .478 through the first two sets. She added three aces, three assists, and seven digs to the night for a pretty neat all around performance to guide Marquette to the program’s first ever win over Illinois. She was the only Golden Eagles with 10 or more kills, which is pretty wild considering that Marquette posted 55 as a team while the match went to five sets. I guess that’s the kind of thing when you prompt 22 hitting errors, 15 service errors, two handling errors and nine receiving errors along the way.
Yadhira Anchante recorded 46 assists and 11 digs for yet another double-double from the setter position, while Aubrey Hamilton had 16 digs to go with her game winning kill and Carly Skrabak led all players in the match with 20 digs.
How about some highlights, courtesy of FloSports and GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: As I type this on Sunday morning, there are less than five hours til first serve against Illinois State at the McGuire Center. The Redbirds are now 7-3 on the season after knocking off Illinois on Saturday morning and are the favorite to win the Missouri Valley Conference this year.