Volleyball falls in straight sets to Xavier

Team now prepares for Saturday match with 12-1 DePaul


Photo by Ben Erickson/benjamin.a.erickson@marquette.edu

Andrew Goldstein, andrew.goldstein@marquette.edu

“Xavier executed significantly better than us in almost every facet of the game.”

Those were the first words Marquette head coach Ryan Theis said at the postgame press conference, and they perfectly sum up the Golden Eagles’ 3-0 loss to the Musketeers in the first game of BIG EAST play. The loss drops Marquette to 0-1 in-conference and 8-5 on the year.

Marquette’s defense was plagued by communication errors in the first two sets. Xavier posted a fantastic .405 hitting percentage in a 25-23 first set victory and followed it up with a strong .333 figure in the second set en route to a 25-16 victory.

“We’re reacting to everything as if it’s a surprise,” Theis said. “Hitters are hitting into space and it almost seems as if we’re not ready defensively.”

The Golden Eagles were highly effective on offense to start, hitting .406 in a first set shootout. However, by the second set, Marquette’s poor first touches on defense had started to impact the attack, and the Golden Eagles’ hitting percentage dropped over 400 points to -.035.

The vast majority of the third set went no better for Coach Theis’ team, as Xavier stormed out to a 20-12 lead on the strength of four kills from junior middle hitter Abbey Bessler. Marquette was able to mount a small rally toward the end of the game, but it was far too late to matter. A final smash down the middle of the court from Bessler sealed a 25-19 third-set win and the match for Xavier.

“We’re not doing the little things well, and we need to find those little things over the course of the season,” Theis said.

Marquette has just under 60 hours to correct those little things before its next match against the DePaul Blue Demons on Saturday. DePaul is attempting to rebound after a painful loss of their own on Wednesday. The Blue Demons built a 2-0 advantage on the Butler Bulldogs before losing the final three sets and the game.

DePaul is currently 11-2 on the season and 0-1 in Big East play. Its record may seem impressive, but none of the teams the Blue Demons played in their non-conference schedule are from major volleyball conferences. None of its opponents made the NCAA tournament last year or are anywhere close to PrepVolleyball’s Top 50 rankings.

By contrast, Marquette’s preseason schedule featured four teams that made the NCAA tournament last year and four Top 50 teams.

Still, DePaul finished last in the Big East in 2014-2015 with a dismal 3-27 record, so they are clearly improved. Marquette cannot afford to take the Blue Demons lightly, and they certainly cannot afford to start matches as poorly as they have recently. The Golden Eagles have lost the first set in five out of their previous seven matches, which is a trend that must stop for Marquette to find any kind of success.

When asked after the game if he still considered Marquette a BIG EAST title contender, Theis said, “I think so.”

If the Golden Eagles don’t rebound quickly from this loss, that will be an increasingly tough statement to make.