Volleyball extends win streak with pair of weekend victories

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Volleyball extends win streak with pair of weekend victories

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

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

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

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

Andrew Goldstein, andrew.goldstein@marquette.edu

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It appears that Marquette volleyball is turning the corner.

After a shaky start to the non-conference slate, Marquette volleyball has extended their winning streak to four with a pair of four-set victories this past weekend at the Al McGuire Center. Marquette hung on to defeat the Seton Hall Pirates on Friday night by a final score of 24-26, 25-19, 27-25, 25-14, then secured a huge conference victory over the Villanova Wildcats by a final of 25-15, 24-26, 25-22, 25-15.

“The last two weeks, they’ve really done a good job,” said Marquette head coach Ryan Theis. “We tried to create a little bit more variety with some of the things our team was doing to give our players some better opportunities, and I think they’re embracing that and doing it well.”

The Golden Eagles kicked off the latter half of their BIG EAST schedule with a hotly contested victory over Seton Hall. The two teams battled back and forth throughout the first set, with neither team gaining an advantage of more than four points. A crosscourt kill from junior middle hitter Teal Schnurr tied the set at 24 points apiece, but consecutive attack errors from freshman outside hitter Taylor Louis handed Seton Hall the set.

Afterwards, Coach Theis lamented his team’s lack of blocking in the first set, saying, “We left three blocks out there, and we need to make those plays.”

The Golden Eagle defense managed to turn things around in the next three sets, though, racking up 11.5 blocks and not allowing the Pirates to hit above .150 as a team. Taylor Louis bounced back after her missteps at the end of the first set to finish the match with 23 kills, which was the ninth time this season that Louis got 20 or more kills in a single match.

In the end, a rejuvenated defense and an offensive onslaught from Louis was too much for the Pirates to handle; Marquette won the next three sets and the match.

“When we were struggling, somebody needed to step up for us, and I thought Taylor Louis did that,” Theis said.

Marquette’s good performance on Friday night carried into their next match against Villanova, as the Golden Eagles easily handled the Wildcats in the first set and clung to a 24-22 lead in the second frame. However, Marquette failed to close out when they had the chance, and Villanova went on a four-point run to win the set and tie the match going into halftime.

“We let an opportunity go at the end of that set,” Theis said.

Desperate for a jolt of energy, Marquette turned to junior setter Sara Blasier, and she did not disappoint. The Hartford, Wisconsin native was seemingly everywhere at all times, leaping in the air to contest Villanova attacks, then getting right back in the play to set the ball only a second later. Blasier ended the evening with 37 assists a career-high 24 digs, both of which played a crucial role in Marquette winning the next two sets.

“I got a few good digs in the first game and I think that built my confidence,” Blasier said. “After that, I just decided that I wasn’t going to let the ball fall.”

The Golden Eagles are now 16-7 overall and 8-3 in the BIG EAST; only one game off the pace of the second-place Villanova Wildcats. Creighton is still a perfect 11-0 in conference play and solidly in command of the conference.

Marquette won’t have to wait long for a chance to get back on the court; their next match is on Monday night against the crosstown UW-Milwaukee Panthers, who are 6-17 on the year. UWM is only hitting .180 on the year, and they’re committing errors on 17.4 percent of all their shots. Still, even though all signs point to an easy Marquette victory, Coach Theis says that he won’t allow his team to look past the Panthers.

“When I left the team in the locker room, I asked them ‘What’s the biggest match of the year?’ and they all said, ‘Monday; UWM,’ so they’re starting to figure it out.”

Considering the talent that Marquette flashed this weekend, them figuring it out could be a scary proposition for the rest of the BIG EAST.

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