Volleyball season ends in four-set loss to No. 16 seed Purdue

Allie+Barber+recorded+15+kills+in+Marquette%27s+four-set+loss+Saturday+at+Purdue.+It+was+her+final+match+in+a+Marquette+uniform.

Photo by John Steppe

Allie Barber recorded 15 kills in Marquette's four-set loss Saturday at Purdue. It was her final match in a Marquette uniform.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A year after making the first Sweet 16 in program history, Marquette came up short of making its second Sweet 16 Saturday, losing in four sets against the No. 16-seeded Purdue Boilermakers (22-25, 25-16, 25-17, 25-13).

“Our team was full of fight,” Marquette head coach Ryan Theis said. “This group has just an absolute ton of heart. … Obviously you want that one, and that hurts. But I’m just proud of our team, this season we’ve had, the year and the seniors who have been so wonderful for four years.”

For four consecutive years, Purdue missed out on the Sweet 16. This is the first time since 2013 the Boilermakers have advanced past the Round of 32.

“That’s always something that we’ve continually strived for, and we’ve fallen short the past few years,” Purdue redshirt senior Blake Mohler said. “This group decided, after December in Kentucky, that that wasn’t going to happen again and that we were going to the Sweet 16.”

Neither team claimed much of a lead early in the opening set. But after going on 5-0 and 3-0 scoring runs, Marquette positioned itself with a 17-12 advantage. The Golden Eagles stayed strong and took the first frame 25-22.

Marquette sophomore Ellie Koontz recorded a .429 clip on a team-high four kills on seven attempts.

“We were spreading the ball around really well,” senior outside hitter Allie Barber said. “A lot of our different hitters were stepping up big, and that helped us a lot because it seemed like Purdue wasn’t able to really get a handle on all of our hitters.”

After the second set started with a 10-10 tie, Purdue went on a 6-0 run. The Golden Eagles had no answers for the Boilermakers’ offense, leading to a 25-16 victory. Marquette struggled in the second, hitting a match-low .031 in the second with nine attack errors.

“Grace Cleveland had a great serve run there for sure. Two balls dropped off the end of the table,” Theis said. “A great serve run by her, just a timely play.”

The Boilermakers controlled the beginning of the third set, taking a 10-6 lead before the Golden Eagles fought back to a 12-12 tie. But then Purdue went on a 7-1 scoring run and eventually won the set 25-17.

“As the match went on, they’re a great blocking team, they’re a great team in general and we went back to our comfort zone, and that wasn’t going to work,” senior setter Lauren Speckman said. “We just needed to keep doing what we did in the first, and we didn’t.”

It was all Purdue in the final frame. The Boilermakers jumped to a 19-8 advantage and eventually won the set 25-13 to clinch a spot in the Sweet 16.

“I kept telling myself, ‘Don’t get ahead of myself,'” Purdue head coach Dave Shondell said. “A couple timeouts, I said, ‘We haven’t done anything guys. We haven’t done a thing yet. You have to win three sets and go from there.’ … The looks on their faces told the whole story, I thought, in the last three sets tonight.”

Barber, the BIG EAST Player of the Year, led the Golden Eagles with 15 kills and had six digs. Speckman dished a team-best 21 assists, and Hope Werch contributed a team-high 11 digs and seven kills.

Caitlyn Newton led the Boilermakers with a match-high 23 kills, including eight in the first set. Theis said she hits a high, heavy and deep ball, which gave his team trouble.

“Her back row attack stuff was impressive,” Theis said. “Five of them hit sidelines or end lines. When you’re stretching a defense to the absolute line over and over again … hats off to her, that was great attacking.”

Purdue finished with a combined 14 blocks.

“Once we started blocking some balls, things got a little bit easier,” Shondell said. “They lost some confidence on their side of the net, which happens in this game … but the block was a big factor.”

The Golden Eagles end their season with a program-best overall record of 28-6. Marquette loses both Barber and Speckman in the spring to graduation.

“One of my favorite times of the year is from January to the end of April: to take an offseason group and say, ‘How are we going move forward with this and the people coming in?'” Theis said.

 

This story was written by Zoe Comerford. She can be reached at isabel.comerford@marquette.edu and on Twitter @zoe_comerford.