No. 11 Marquette stuns No. 4 Wisconsin in five-set thriller

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Photo by John Steppe

No. 11 Marquette volleyball celebrates a point in its five-set win over No. 4 Wisconsin.

Jack Phillips

MADISON — For the first time in program history, No. 11 Marquette volleyball upset in-state rival No. 4 Wisconsin (22-25, 22-25, 29-27, 32-30, 15-9) on the Badgers’ home floor Thursday night.

“Our team is just riding a high right now,” senior outside hitter Allie Barber said. “We knew that we could pull this off, but I think we were really gritty and we stuck with it and it showed, winning in five. Just running high on emotions right now, it’s a great feeling.”

Even from outside the Golden Eagles’ locker room, one could hear “We Are Marquette” cheers.

“(I’m) sweaty because it was warm in there, I’m hungry, because it was a three hour match and I’m proud of the team,” head coach Ryan Theis said immediately after the game. “They’re a great group to be down 0-2 on the road. I just couldn’t be happier for them. … They’re a hardworking group and it’s terrific to watch.”

The first two sets remained close, but MU lost both sets by three points, and Wisconsin had two match points in the third set.

Marquette built a 17-14 lead in the first set, but after a Wisconsin timeout, the Golden Eagles lost momentum and the Badgers tied the game at 19. Despite Marquette holding onto possession for most of the set, the Golden Eagles crumbled in the final points to fall in the first set 25-22.

The second set was similar to the first. Marquette had an 18-17 lead, but Wisconsin came back to win the set 25-22 once again.

Marquette barely held on in the third set to stay alive, winning 29-27.

“We were just trying to drag it out as long as we could and see if we could get opportunities to pull ahead,” Theis said. “That’s kind of what happened. It was a fun way to squeak out that third and then all the sudden in the fourth, we got some momentum going.”

Wisconsin had 20 blocks by the end of the second set, six of which were from 6-foot-8 junior middle blocker Dana Rettke.

“She’s terrific. She’s a future Olympian,” Theis said. “She swings high and her contact point is really hard to defend. We got a couple stops when we needed to.”

After a sloppy start from both sides in the fourth set that included three service errors in the first six points, the Badgers pulled ahead with a 12-9 lead after two crucial attack errors from Barber. Despite going down early, Marquette battled for an eventual 20-18 lead, eventually winning the set 32-30.

“It’s all adrenaline,” Barber said. “When you get out there, you don’t think about how tired you are or how much your legs hurt or your arms hurt. You just go for it.”

The fifth set was a much different story. Wisconsin was up early 3-1 before Marquette took seven consecutive points to establish a commanding 12-7 lead. From there, the Golden Eagles won the set 15-9.

Four Golden Eagles reached double-digit kills: Barber tied with the match-high of 22, junior outside hitters Kaitlyn Lines and Hope Werch notched 17 and sophomore outside hitter Ellie Koontz added 15. Senior setter Lauren Speckman had a team-high 42 assists, and junior libero Martha Konovodoff accumulated a game-high 17 digs.

Rettke led the Badgers on both sides of the ball with 22 kills, a hitting percentage of 0.455 and eight blocks. Junior setter Sydney Hilley finished with a match-high 59 of the team’s 63 assists and senior libero Tiffany Clark added 15 digs.

No. 11 Marquette (4-0) will look to continue its undefeated season in home matches against the Syracuse Orange Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and the No. 17 Baylor Bears Sunday at 1 p.m.

“Right now, rest and recovery,” Theis said. “Syracuse and Baylor are two awfully good teams with plenty of firepower. … I told (the team) they could have until 11 a.m. tomorrow to have fun with this, and then we have video at 11.”

“We can stick with anyone as long as we keep pushing points,” Barber said. “We have to get back to practice tomorrow and work really hard because no one’s going to go easy on us.”