After an opening weekend where Marquette Golden Eagles volleyball lost to the #24 team in the country and got pushed to five sets by two unranked teams, the second weekend of the season presented an interesting task for the Golden Eagles. Sure, Carsen Murray was back in the lineup after missing the first three matches with a lower leg injury, but Marquette was going to be facing the #25 and #23 teams in the country. What would happen?
As it turns out, the answer was “two losses that had giant red flags attached to them.”
On Friday afternoon, #19 Marquette lost in five sets to #25 Purdue with set scores of 18-25, 25-18, 16-25, 29-27, and 17-15. 24 hours later, it was a 3-1 (21-25, 25-20, 25-14, 25-19) loss to #23 Kansas. The losses drop Marquette to 2-3 on the season with three straight matches against ranked opponents coming up next on the schedule, and I think there’s an argument that MU should not be ranked in the new AVCA poll on Monday.
Ultimately, the fact that Marquette lost these matches isn’t a problem. Going with the AVCA poll as a measuring stick, both Purdue and Kansas would be the rough equivalent of second round NCAA tournament opponents. On top of that, Purdue was a preseason top 20 team that had a bad opening weekend and was in search of wins to bounce back. Meanwhile, Kansas was coming off a Thursday loss to Purdue themselves and with the added advantage of playing at home, they were motivated to bounce back from their loss just as much as MU was motivated to bounce back from theirs.
It’s how Marquette lost these two matches that’s a bigger problem, I think.
We’re going to skip past the first three sets against the Boilermakers. Marquette took a 2-1 advantage, winning the first and third. A late 6-1 run by Marquette puts them up 23-18. The finish line on the first notable win is in sight. [ASIDE: Speaking of in sight, I have no idea what actually transpired in this match, as Kansas refused to create a stream on ESPN+ for it, which may or may not be their fault, contractually speaking.] Purdue gets three straight to pull within two points, but a kill from Hattie Bray makes it 24-21.
Match point, Marquette.
Purdue fends it off three straight times, including a service ace and an attack error by Aubrey Hamilton. Kill by Hamilton, 25-24 Marquette, match point again.
Purdue fends it off. 25-all, extra points, win by two. Purdue scores the next point, and now it’s Marquette fighting to stay in the set. The two sides trade some points, but the Boilermakers get kills from Taylor Anderson and Eva Hudson to get the 29-27 win and force a fifth set.
Four chances to win and move on to Kansas. Didn’t happen.
And then Marquette fell behind 10-6 and then 12-8 in the 15 point fifth set. They tied it at 12, so that’s great, but there’s a question to be asked if this set was lost before that. Purdue got to 14 first, and the Golden Eagles fended off match point themselves twice, but never got their opponent back in jeopardy after the four tries they had to close it out in the fourth frame. It went to extra points, but Purdue got the 17-15 win to rally and win the match.
That sends us along to Saturday’s contest against #23 Kansas. Marquette’s biggest problem here? They couldn’t get out of the gate right. A 4-0 start to the match after Friday’s inability to close the door seemed ominous at the time, but the Golden Eagles had a 4-0 run of their own early on to tie it at five points each. A fairly normal set played out from there, and an attacking error from Caroline “Not So” Bien gave MU the 25-21 win to start out.
And then the ominous start came back.
Set #2: 6-0 Kansas out of the gate, and then 13-5 shortly thereafter.
Set #3: 4-0, 8-1, and 10-2 Kansas out of the gate.
Now they were in a 2-1 hole. Sure, they bounced back in the second with a 7-0 run to pull within one, 13-12, but they ended up losing the set by five. Marquette never got back into the third, eventually falling behind 19-8.
Set #4 was a little bit more normal, but Marquette’s back was to the wall already, and Kansas did get an early 5-2 advantage. MU did wipe it out, eventually holding an 11-9 lead on a kill by Ella Foti, but their last lead in the set came at 14-13. The Jayhawks popped off a 6-2 run to seize control and then closed the whole thing out with four straight points.
If you lose a bunch of 25-22 sets to ranked teams that were never more than three points in either direction, you tip your cap and say, “hey, it happens.” But losing because you couldn’t close the door and then turn around the next day and let yourself get into deep holes that you can’t dig out of? That’s a bad time, and that’s why Marquette went 0-2 at the Kansas Invitational.
Up Next: Hey, remember those ranked teams I mentioned a second ago? Yeah. The good news is that next weekend is Marquette’s first home matches of the season. They’ll host #10 Pitt on Friday, with first serve scheduled for 7pm, and then on Sunday, it’s #24 Tennessee starting at 1pm Central. Both matches will be streamed on FloSports.
Pitt is 3-1 on the season after dropping their opener to #17 BYU but beating #15 Kentucky in Lexington on Friday. Weirdly, they’re hosting Kentucky on Sunday afternoon before making their way to Milwaukee. Tennessee is 5-0 this season with a match in Madison against #1 Wisconsin on Sunday before they come back to the Lake Michigan area next weekend face Loyola Chicago and the Golden Eagles.
After those two? #1 Wisconsin at Fiserv on September 13th. Tickets are still available as I type this, but there were less than 1,100 last I checked.