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RV Marquette Shows Out To Open Big East Play With Two Wins

The Golden Eagles sliced their way through Villanova and Georgetown in the opening weekend of conference action.

Marquette’s Aubrey Hamilton
Aubrey Hamilton was on a hot streak this weekend at the McGuire Center.
Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

With Marquette volleyball starting the season ranked #12 in the country and then finishing their first 11 matches with a record of 4-7 with seven losses to ranked opponents, there were a lot of questions swirling around the 2023 season.

A big number of those questions got answered on Friday and Saturday night at the McGuire Center, as RV Marquette snagged back-to-back 3-0 sweep wins over Villanova (25-18, 25-15, 25-11) and Georgetown (25-15. 25-13, 25-19). That moves the Golden Eagles to 2-0 in Big East play and into a four-way tie for first place in the conference after the first weekend of action. That tie does not include #11 Creighton, as the Bluejays lost in five sets to Xavier on Saturday night to stand at 1-1. FUN FACT: That was Creighton’s first ever loss to the Musketeers in 24 all-time meetings.

But back to what Marquette did.

The Golden Eagles stepped into Big East play with something to prove after their rough start, at least record-wise, to the season. They wasted no time setting a standard, as they popped off seven straight points after Villanova scored the first two points of the match on Friday night. The set tightened up until a 3-0 burst from Marquette mid-way through gave them a little bit of breathing room, and they won it with four straight points, including three from Ella Foti by way of two kills and a partner block with Hattie Bray.

Now that Marquette had a look at what Villanova was showing them, things got easier from there. The Golden Eagles hit .500 in each of the next two sets and held the Wildcats to successively fewer points in each set. MU went up 7-1 out of the gate in the second set and the lead would eventually peak at 12 when a Sarah Kushner service ace made it 18-6. Marquette was able to coast it in from there, eventually closing out the second frame with a kill from Foti.

It was 20-13 late in the second set, and the end of that one combined with Marquette’s 7-1 start to the third put the Golden Eagles on a 12-3 run bridging the gap. 7-1. 10-3. 14-5. 17-6. 23-8. Message sent to the rest of the Big East, and MU got the sweep on a service error by Villanova.

Reasons why this went so well? Marquette hit .440 as a team. Aubrey Hamilton had 13 kills and hit .600. Hattie Bray barely missed a double-double on 11 blocks (2 solo, 9 assisted) to go with nine kills while hitting .471. Carsen Murray, who sat out the second two sets of Marquette’s loss to Oregon, was her usual dynamic self with five kills on six swings to hit .833.

Marquette did not quite pick up where they left off against Villanova when things got started on Saturday against Georgetown. The largest lead through the first 17 points of the match was when Hattie Bray missed on an attack to put the Hoyas up 7-5, and a block by GU’s Peyton Wilhite and Kamryn Lee-Caracci had the visitors up 9-8.

And then Marquette flipped the switch. Six straight by the Golden Eagles forced a timeout from Georgetown, and Aubrey Hamilton made it a 7-0 run after the break. 15-9, all of a sudden. The Hoyas found a way to stabilize where they were, but three straight attacking errors from Mary Grace Goyena gave MU three free points and made it 22-14. Marquette could smell the blood in the water, and a kill by Ella Foti was followed shortly thereafter by an ace from her as well, and that’s a 17-6 run to close out the set.

That turned into a 26-8 run after the first 11 points of the second frame put Marquette out in front 9-2. It was 12-4 in a hurry, then 20-10 not long after that, and a 5-1 run to close the second was capped by a block from Hamilton and Carsen Murray. 42-19 run by Marquette since that 9-8 lead by Georgetown in the first.

The third set mirrored the first one, as it was 9-9 after 18 points and 17-10 Marquette after the next nine were played. Georgetown made it interesting, all credit to them, by closing the margin to 21-18 after Ella Holmstrom couldn’t keep an attack in play. But the Hoyas handed the point right back on a service error, and that triggered a 4-1 burst to end it, and it was a smash kill in the middle of the floor for Hamilton to wrap things up.

Aubrey Hamilton was apparently annoyed at her one error on Friday, and elected to duplicate her performance on Saturday: 20 swings, .600 hitting. “Only” 12 kills for her this time around, because that’s what you can do when you don’t have an error. Hattie Bray added nine, and Carsen Murray chipped in six kills while hitting .625.

Up Next: Marquette returns to action next weekend with their first road trip of Big East play. On Saturday, they’ll visit Connecticut for a noon Central time start, and that will be followed up by another noon start on Sunday against Providence. Both teams went 0-2 this past weekend, so Marquette won’t be able to disrupt the logjam atop the league standings on their own, so they’ll just have to settle for hoping that they’re the last undefeated team standing for now.