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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Marquette Women’s Volleyball: Season ends in NCAA Tournament second round

The Marquette women's volleyball team took Western Kentucky 3-1 in the first round of NCAA Tournament play but fell short to No. 3 seed Illinois during the second round on Saturday. Photo by Aaron Ledesma/[email protected]

In a mirror image of last season’s men’s basketball NCAA Tournament, another Marquette team followed an upset victory with a crushing defeat by a perennial powerhouse.

The women’s volleyball team defeated a ranked opponent for the first time in school history with a 3-1 (25-21, 22-25, 26-24, 25-23) victory over No. 24 Western Kentucky (31-4) in the first round, but then fell 3-0 (25-13, 25-23, 25-22) on Saturday to No. 3 overall seed Illinois.

The Golden Eagles (24-10), who were making their first appearance in the tournament, held Western Kentucky to .217 hitting percentage in the first match, but were helped by 22 Hilltopper hitting errors.

“The whole team was just kind of on fire,” coach Bond Shymansky said after the match. “It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t flawless, but we knew that it didn’t need to be. It was a team effort all the way around. We practiced all week long and knew each set was going to be 23-23 or 22-22.”

Senior outside hitters Ciara Jones and Ashley Beyer led the Golden Eagles in the first match with 17 and 15 kills, respectively, Beyer also adding eight digs.

“We knew we didn’t have to think,” Beyer said. “We just had to play Marquette volleyball. And if we do that we’re ridiculous and can do whatever we want.”

Even though the women pulled out the gritty victory, there were signs of the hitting issues that would persist in the second round matchup.

Marquette hit .034 lower than its season average of .253 in the win against Western Kentucky and was helped by 35 total errors, both attack and service, committed by the Hilltoppers.

Illinois (29-4) would not make such errors.

The disciplined Fighting Illini, playing on their home court, made only 10 attack errors and missed four serves, in contrast to the 21 attack errors and eight missed serves by Marquette. Combine that with 13.5 total team blocks — compared to Marquette’s 3.0 — and a lowly .157 hitting percentage for Marquette, and it was clear the Golden Eagles were overmatched.

“(Illinois) was the tallest team we’ve ever played against,” Shymansky said. “They were the tallest team I’ve ever coached against.”

And worse, Marquette came out flat in the first set, where 10 errors on 30 attacks doomed the team to a -.067 hitting percentage.

“We aren’t a team that performs well when we come out flat,” Shymansky said. “Some teams are good at playing flat, and you can’t tell the difference. Our team is extremely emotional … I would never ask them to be any other way.”

Junior middle hitter Danielle Carlson led the team with 11 kills on Saturday, but was the only Golden Eagles hitter not frustrated by the frontline of the Illini.

“(Freshman setter Chelsea Heier) did a good job of getting the ball out in front of me, and it allowed me to get into a rhythm,” Carlson said. “I was able to cut it across the court because there was a lot of room over there.”

Jones and Beyer combined to go 17 for 69 in attacks, with Beyer posting a meager .026 hitting percentage.

“We didn’t pass great (Saturday),” Shymansky said. “Five out of their six, I was like, ‘Wow, we’d better change something or they’ll end up with 20 blocks in one set.'”

Shymansky concluded that he was proud of the way his team fought during the tournament, and the entire year, but even he admitted he knew that the play would have to be better to make the Sweet 16 and overcome the Illini at home.

“(Against Western Kentucky) we were flawless after 22 or 23 points, and that’s what we needed to be (Saturday),” he said. “There’s little bounces … here or there and maybe if they go a different way we come out on top.”

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