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Volleyball season ends with loss to No. 2 Minnesota in NCAAs

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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

Marquette volleyball faced a Big Ten team in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third time in program history, and for the third time in program history, they lost.

The No. 2 Minnesota Golden Gophers ended Marquette’s season without much fanfare, winning 25-23, 25-13, 25-21. Marquette is now 3-5 all-time in NCAA Tournament matches.

“Overall, I think this is a great experience for our program,” said Marquette head coach Ryan Theis. “(There were) a couple opportunities we let slip through our fingers that maybe could have extended the match in the first and the third games to maybe see what could happen if we got into four.”

An imbalanced offensive attack was the Golden Eagles’ downfall against the Gophers. Freshman outside hitter Taylor Louis picked up 18 kills on 37 swings, but the rest of Marquette’s team had only 17 kills on a combined 80 attempts. After Louis, the next highest individual kill total belonged to freshman middle hitter Jenna Rosenthal with five.

“Their fast offense is kind of what got us out of system,” Louis said. “I tip my hat to them.”

The heavily favored Gophers dictated the flow of the game in the first set. They hit .316 and led by as many as six points deep into the frame. However, a five-point Golden Eagle run consisting of four kills from Louis and a combination block from Louis and Rosenthal cut the Minnesota lead from 21-15 to 21-20. After trading points three times, junior middle hitter Teal Schnurr committed a costly service error to hand Minnesota a 25-23 set victory.

Just as it looked like Marquette would give Minnesota a competitive match, the Gophers went on a tear to open the second stanza. The first eight points of the set all went to Minnesota, and it wasn’t until more than halfway through the set that Marquette got a kill from somebody other than Taylor Louis. A combo block from Minnesota outside hitter Daly Santana and middle hitter Paige Tapp put a merciful end to a 25-13 Golden Gopher win.

“They were able to run their fast offense to every single hitter, which was very hard to block and defend,” junior setter Sara Blasier said. “I think they did a great job playing really aggressively.”

Thankfully for Marquette fans, the competitiveness of the third set was more in line with what happened in the first. Neither team was able to take more than a four-point lead, and the two teams’ hitting percentages were within four-tenths of a percent of each other (Minnesota had a .093 percentage, while Marquette’s was .089).

Erin Lehman slammed a kill late in the set to push Marquette’s lead to 21-19, but then Minnesota roared to life. A Mary Nilles service error gave the serve back to the Gophers, and they would not relinquish it for the rest of the game. They won five straight points to win the set 25-21 and dash Marquette’s upset dreams.

“We missed a couple of… situations, and a lot of that credit goes to Minnesota, obviously,” Theis said. “They’re very good and showed it tonight.”

Marquette finished the game with a .085 hitting percentage, largely due to their 25 attack errors. Louis had by far the most errors with nine, but four of them were due to Minnesota blocks. The prolific freshman Louis also became the first player in Marquette history to record more than 600 kills in a season.

Defense was a bright spot for Marquette in their season-ender; they held the usually hyper-efficient Gophers to a pedestrian .224 hitting percentage. Junior libero Lauren Houg led the team with 17 digs and reached a milestone of her own. She now holds the single-season Marquette digs mark with 641.

This match also marks the end of both Erin Leman and Mary Nilles’ collegiate careers. Lehman is a graduating senior, and Nilles is a junior that will choose to forego her final year of eligibility.

The Golden Eagles finish out their season with an overall record of 22-12. They will have to wait until the spring exhibition season to take the court again.

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