After taking the first set from the No. 1 team in the Big East, it seemed as if the luck of the Irish would be on Marquette’s side.
However, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (17-4, 11-0 Big East) would prove too much as they battled back to take the match 3-1 (21-25, 25-18, 26-24, 25-13).
Sophomore Ashley Beyer led the team with 15 kills while junior Nikki Klingsporn led the team in sets (41) and blocks (5), a rare feat for a setter.
“That’s what we continue to do all season, come out hot and then just kind of fade. We had a great game three and we’re just struggling with closing,” coach Bond Shymansky said. “When the chips get down for us we really get tested in a lot of ways. We need to learn how to come together stronger as a team and close somebody out.”
Her quick sets to middle hitters Rabbecka Gonyo and freshman Kelsey Mattai helped Marquette keep up with Notre Dame through the first three sets, Shymansky said.The passing was simply not there in the final set to run a quick offense.
Notre Dame gifted Marquette two points in the start of the first set missing their first two serves and the Golden Eagles took advantage jumping out to a quick 3-1 lead. They extended this lead to 12-6 behind two serving aces from senior Hailey Viola.
The Irish would storm back to tie the set at 17, however, behind Kirsten Dealy’s five kills. Marquette once again responded using Klingsporn’s quick sets to the middle hitters and timely blocking to shock the Irish and take the first set 25-21.
The two squads traded body blows in the first parts of the second set with neither team holding a lead of over three points. Down 11-8, the Irish went on an 8-1 run to take a 16-12 advantage. Marquette would respond behind back-to-back Beyer kills to draw within one ant 15-16 before Notre Dame would blow it wide open.
The Irish attack proved too potent racking up 15 kills and four blocks as it overpowered Marquette 25-18 in the second set. Not helping the Golden Eagle’s cause were the nine attack errors it committed, six more than the previous set.
It looked as if Dikembe Mutombo was out there for the Irish at the start of the third set as Notre Dame blocked Marquette four times in eight points to jump out to a 7-5 lead. The Golden Eagles would keep swinging and began landing some kills off of quick sets to freshman Kelsey Mattai as they took an 18-16 lead.
The jabs would continue as Notre Dame countered with three straight points of their own. Up 25-26, it was fitting that the Irish would block the Marquette attack to take the set. It was Notre Dame’s eighth block of the set.
Marquette came out flat in the fifth set falling behind 5-0 before two Beyer kills put some life back into the team. Tied at 12 however, Notre Dame would show its class and go on a 13-1 run to win the set and the match.
“We just need to stay more consistent and fight more than one game,” junior Rabbecka Gonyo said. “Like Bond (Shymansky) says, if this were a one game season we would be champions.”