The odds finally came out against Marquette women’s volleyball over the weekend.
The Golden Eagles had already posted the third and fourth wins in program history against top 10 foes earlier this season, including Thursday’s come from behind shocker of #4 Wisconsin. They followed that up with a 3-0 (25-12, 25-23, 25-18) home win against Syracuse on Saturday, but the winning streak to open the season came to an end on Sunday. #17 Baylor were the opponent in that one, and they got a second straight win against a top 15 opponent after beating #4 Wisconsin on Friday. Baylor beat Marquette 3-0, with set scores of 25-14, 27-25, and 25-18.
With the win and the loss, Marquette is now 5-1 on the season and waiting to see where they’ll be ranked in Monday’s new AVCA top 25 poll.
Let’s tackle the Syracuse match first, shall we?
As you can see from the set score, it started off with MU burning the Orange’s doors off. Marquette hit a whopping .586 in the first set against just .192 for Syracuse. Going play-by-play, though, it wasn’t really the runaway win for Marquette that it looks like. Syracuse never scored two points in a row while Marquette did that a bunch, and then closed out with four straight.
Set #2 was a bit more interesting, as both teams struggled to put the ball down on the floor for points by the time it was over. It looked like Marquette was going to run away with it early, though, as a kill by Ellie Koontz capped off a 7-0 MU run to put the Golden Eagles up 16-7. Syracuse answered with four straight of their own, getting two service aces to speed the process up. Those four in a row were the start of a 10-2 run by the Orange that launched them back into contention, and before you know it, an attack error by Hope Werch pulled Syracuse within one at 22-21. All Marquette had to do from there was trade points with Syracuse, and a block by Allie Barber and Elizabeth Orf nailed down the win.
Through 32 points in set #3, it was all knotted up at 16 each. That’s when Marquette reasserted themselves. Kills from Hannah Vanden Berg and KJ Lines gave the Golden Eagles some breathing room, and with match point approaching, MU turned to Barber. MU’s #3 all-time attacker smashed down kills 12 through 15 right in a row for the final four points of the match to give MU the sweep.
Barber’s 15 kills were a match high, and she hit .433 on the day to get there. She was the only one in double digits for the day for Marquette, but Werch added seven kills, an ace, an assisted block, and 12 digs for a robust scoring line across the stat sheet.
The signs that it wasn’t Marquette’s day against #17 Baylor were there right from the get go. The Bears opened up a 4-0 lead in Set #1 on three straight attack errors by Allie Barber and then Marieke Van der Mark and Shelly Stafford stuffed Barber. Head coach Ryan Theis burned his first timeout of the match right there, and you can argue that it worked. MU would close the gap, getting the lead to just one at 7-6. Baylor scored the next four, though, with three attack errors and a block, and that turned into an 9-1 run. That made it 16-7, and that was pretty much that for the first set. Baylor hit .360, but they really didn’t have to, as MU couldn’t even get into positive territory at -.026 and essentially handed Baylor the set by sending attack after attack after attack long and out of bounds.
Marquette was on the verge of turning the whole thing around in the second, ripping off four straight to take a 21-20 lead and eventually leading 24-23 on a kill by Hope Werch. All they needed to do was close the door..... and they didn’t. MU would get set point again at 25-24..... but again, Baylor kept the door cracked open. Back-to-back kills by Stafford flipped set point to the Bears, and then Stafford and Yossiana Pressley stuffed Ellie Koontz to take the 27-25 win.
That gives us a nice transition to talk about Pressley, who got better and better as the match went on. Five kills in the first turned into six in the second, which then turned into — and I’m not kidding here — nine kills in the third set. She only had two in Baylor’s first 10 points in what became the final frame, but it was 10-2 at that point. She was a wrecking machine for the Bears as Marquette tried to fight their way back into the set. Every time Marquette seemed like they might find a seam to get in, there was Pressley, soaring and spiking to stem the tide.
Pressley’s 20 kills were tops in the match, as Marquette was led by 12 from Barber and 11 from Werch. Barber may have had the team lead, but she never got on track in the match. It’s rare when you see Allie Barber hit poorly, and .070 definitely qualifies as poorly. Baylor completely took KJ Lines out of the picture, which is a big deal. Lines was a monster for Marquette in their wins over #9 BYU and #4 Wisconsin, but she didn’t register a kill against the Bears. Lines had six errors on eight swings which is, y’know, bad.
Is it a bummer that Marquette couldn’t keep the good vibes going after their two top 10 wins? Sure. Is it season breaking? Not even in the slightest. There’s reason to believe the Bears are wildly underrated given their own win over Wisconsin on Friday, so perhaps by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, we’ll all be staring up at Baylor in the top 25. Besides, Marquette has a few more stern challenges left in the non-conference schedule, and as long as they dive headfirst into those, everything will work itself out.
Up Next: MU is off til next weekend when they’ll be down in central Illinois for a tournament hosted by Illinois State. It’ll be UCF (5-1) on Friday, followed by #5 Illinois (2-2) on Saturday (see what I meant about challenges?), and then the hosting Redbirds (5-1) on Sunday.