Marquette Wire

Volleyball moves on to second round of NCAA tournament

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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@mu.edu

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For the third time in program history, Marquette volleyball is moving on.

The Golden Eagles triumphed over the Northern Iowa Panthers by a final of 25-17, 22-25, 25-11, 23-25, 15-9 on Friday night at the Sports Pavilion on the University of Minnesota campus. This is the second time the Golden Eagles have made the second round of the tournament in three years. They will play the host Gophers tomorrow.

“I was really proud of our effort throughout the match,” said Marquette head coach Ryan Theis. “I thought their energy was high, I thought they were engaged and I thought they did a terrific job throughout.”

Marquette fans couldn’t have asked for a much better start than the one their team got off to. They hit .326 in the opening set and six different players recorded a kill as the team utilized all areas of the court. Northern Iowa played solid back row defense, but sunk themselves with seven hitting errors, which would be a common recurrence throughout the match. A Teal Schnurr kill capped off a 25-17 set win to put Marquette up 1-0.

Northern Iowa refused to roll over, though. Instead, the Panthers refined their hitting and posted a .333 percentage in the second set, overwhelming the Marquette block. Freshman outside hitter Taylor Louis did her best to keep the Golden Eagles in it with six kills, but the combined efficiency of Northern Iowa’s front line was too much for Marquette to bear. The Panthers won the second set 25-22 and knotted the match up at halftime.

“It was definitely a different experience from being on the bench,” Louis said, referencing last season’s first round loss against Illinois State when she was a redshirt freshman. “It’s a lot more pressure.”

The third set played out nothing like the rest of the match up until that point, which had been a contest of relative equals. Everything that could have gone right for Marquette went right, and just about everything that could go awry on the other side of the net started to do so.

Marquette took 14 out of the first 16 points to race out to a commanding 14-2 lead, forcing Northern Iowa to burn both of their timeouts within the first ten points in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding. The Panthers had perhaps their worst hitting performance of the season with five attack errors in the first seven points and nine in the set. These errors sunk Northern Iowa’s hitting percentage so far into the negatives that merely hitting the ball over the net raised their hitting percentage for most of the set. Northern Iowa ended the set with a -.071 percentage, but it was not enough to keep the blue and gold from rolling to a 25-11 win.

“We decided as a defense that we were going to stay calm and stop their runs from happening,” said junior libero Lauren Houg, who came up with a team-high 23 digs. “If we could stop their runs and they get a good (shot), we tip our hats to them and get ready for the next play. I think that was a really good way to go about it.”

However, the Panthers refused to let their lackluster third set submarine the entire match. Junior outside hitter Amie Held kept her team afloat from the service line, smacking three aces and putting consistent pressure on Marquette’s defenders, which led to sub-optimal first touches. Two of those service aces came late in the set to take the score from 22-22 to 24-22 Panthers.

After Held hit a ball into the net, the two teams had a prolonged rally on the next point to determine whether the set would go to Northern Iowa or a deuce. Three times smacked a well-placed ball that could have ended the point, and three times libero Kendyl Sorge dug it out a split second before it hit the court. Eventually, junior outside hitter Lindsey Schulz got a kill to win Northern Iowa the set and send the match into a decisive fifth frame.

The receiving team won 11 straight points to begin the final set, and Marquette clung to an 8-7 lead when the teams switched sides. After an Amie Held kill knotted the score at eight, Marquette suddenly took the game over with a huge 6-0 run. Louis, who claimed the Marquette single-season kills record earlier in the match, delivered three of those points with powerful shots into Northern Iowa’s back row. A Sara Blasier dump two points later earned Marquette a 15-9 set victory and a 3-2 match victory.

“I really liked the way we played in the fifth,” Theis said. “We have not been extremely successful this year in five-set matches…but I really liked the way we closed the fifth.”

Freshman middle hitter Jenna Rosenthal had 11 kills on the match and junior middle hitter Meghan Niemann chipped in 10. Junior setter Sara Blasier also had a big day. She picked up 51 assists, 11 digs and six kills in a splendid all-around effort.

Marquette’s lack of hitting errors also proved to be a major deciding factor in this match. They only had 11 miscues and hit only four balls out. On the other hand, Northern Iowa had 31 errors; 21 of them unforced.

“We’ve been working all year on (lowering) our errors and attacking as efficiently as possible,” Theis said. “It takes a group effort with good first touches and good second touches to put hitters in good positions.”

The Golden Eagles will be back in action again tomorrow against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who made quick work of Jackson State in a three-set victory. Free video streaming for that match will be available on gophersports.com.

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