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2023 NCAA Volleyball Tournament: #6 Marquette Falls In Four Sets To #3 Purdue

The Golden Eagles got behind after two sets and couldn’t do enough to get to the reverse sweep.

Marquette’s Aubrey Hamilton
Aubrey Hamilton, serving in the NCAA tournament.
Dave Wegiel/Marquette University

We knew it all along.

Before the bracket was announced, long before it, in fact, if Marquette volleyball wanted to make a second straight Sweet 16, they were going to have to find a way to beat a team like one of the teams that they went 0-7 against in non-conference play earlier this season. They were good teams when Marquette played them in August and September, and you’re going to have to beat at least one good team to get to the Sweet 16.

We just didn’t know that it was going to literally mean beating one of those seven teams.

That’s the draw that Marquette got, and after falling in five sets to then-#25 Purdue on a neutral floor back on September 1st, exactly three months later, on December 1st, #6 seeded Marquette lost in four sets to #3 seeded Purdue in their gym to end MU’s 2023 NCAA tournament appearance as well as end the season with a record of 21-11.

It seemed clear that Marquette was in for a long day in West Lafayette pretty much from the get-go. The Boilermakers opened up a 15-9 lead before media timeout rules kicked in and gave both teams a break, and that lead would eventually peak at seven points with a 20-13 advantage. Marquette made it interesting down the stretch, going on a challenge-assisted 7-3 run and fending off set point twice, but the gap was too big and a service error from Yadhira Anchante gave the home team the 25-21 win.

It started to look like Marquette might have something for Purdue in the second set as the Golden Eagles reversed course on a 7-3 early deficit to tie the frame at 8. The Boilermakers answered by going back up four, 13-9, but MU fired up again with an 8-1 run to go up 17-14. The see-saw nature of things continued, and Purdue immediately tied it up at 19 and then went up 21-20, and 23-21. Marquette evened it out at 23 on a kill by Aubrey Hamilton, who was outstanding in this match, to lock things into a “next two points wins” situation, but Purdue did exactly that, one from Raven Colvin and one from Eva Hudson, who was more than happy to make the big play over and over again in the contest for the Boilermakers.

Down 2-0, Marquette’s hopes at extending their season now depended on a reverse sweep. They played like it right out of the gate, and if you only turned it on at the start of the third, you would have thought that Marquette had been blowing Purdue off the floor all match long. 9-3 early prompted a Purdue timeout, and that lead mostly held up. 12-6, 14-9, 17-12, but Purdue was chipping into it. Hattie Bray scored back-to-back kills out of a Marquette timeout to make it a four point contest, 20-16, but things were getting shaky. 23-19 on a kill from Hamilton, closer. Purdue challenged Marquette’s 24th point and won, and then tied the thing at 23.... and then went up 24-23 on a kill from Chloe Chicoine. Five straight from Purdue, match point.

Holloway Gym was on fire as they could taste the air of a Sweet 16 appearance.

Hamilton, tied.

Bad set by Purdue’s Taylor Anderson. Set point Marquette.

Block by Carsen Murray and Anastasija Svetnik, 2-1 Purdue after a teeny bit of extra points.

7-2 to start the fourth frame favoring the visitors. The chance of forcing a fifth set glimmered in the distance. Purdue scored six straight, including two on service aces — keep that in mind — to take the lead by just one point. This became a duel. Marquette was able to give Purdue trouble, and they responded by taking a 15-12 lead as Hamilton ran wild with a solo block and two kills surrounding a Molly Berezowitz ace. Purdue gave Marquette problems, as they had all match long, scoring six of the next 10 points to knot the match at 19.

Two Bray kills on either side of a misfire by Purdue, 22-19 Marquette. Can they do this? Is it possible? Maybe not, as four straight from Purdue, including three big time plays by Hudson, put them up 23-22. Not over, but not great. Bray scored. Hamilton scored. Set point Marquette. Somehow, after everything that happened this season, the early losses, the injuries, the medical issues, all of it, a chance to break Purdue’s spirit and force a fifth frame.

Nope. Hudson again. Hamilton got blocked, in case you needed a metaphor for what was happening, and then, Maddie Schermerhorn dropped a serve into Marquette’s back corner, splitting defenders as the Golden Eagles just watched the ball fall clearly inbounds and nowhere close to out of bounds.

And that’s the show.

Aubrey Hamilton was great, firing off 22 kills and hitting .215, but her hitting percentage when it was “Marquette needs a point here” had to have been at least twice that because she was great when the Golden Eagles needed her most, and she added two blocks and eight digs. Marquette got big outings from both of their middles, eight kills and no errors from Carsen Murray, 16 kills and no errors from Hattie Bray.

How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and ESPN+?

That’s it for 2023, and so we must say farewell and THANK YOU to Marquette’s two seniors: Anastasija Svetnik and Sarah Kushner. Neither woman chose Marquette and Milwaukee to start their college careers, but both women made big impacts on MU when they got here. Svetnik got pressed into a big role in her first year on campus, suddenly needing to play big rotations after Hope Werch suffered a season ending injury. Svetnik suffered her own injury that limited her a year ago, but this year, between Carsen Murray missing time early, Yadhira Anchante missing time in the middle, and Ella Foti missing the final few matches of the year, the 6’3” Belorussian had to make big play after big play for Marquette to help them win a third straight regular season title and reach the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Kushner is an entirely different story, as she left her entire college career in the rear view mirror after transferring from Illinois State. She was an outside hitter for the Redbirds, but she was the libero for Marquette this year, stepping into the one role on the roster that the Golden Eagles had to fill from last year’s team. It’s a completely different type of playing responsibility, but she was a defensive and emotional anchor for the team all year long and maybe they don’t win a Big East title without her.

THANK YOU so much to both women for everything that they have done and given to the team and the university. They leave Marquette as champions and we wish both of them nothing but the best in whatever comes next for them.