Marquette sweeps St. John’s, heads to BIG EAST title match

Marquette+swept+St.+John%27s+3-0+Friday+afternoon+in+the+semifinal+match+of+the+BIG+EAST+Tournament+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Marquette+Athletics.%29

Marquette swept St. John’s 3-0 Friday afternoon in the semifinal match of the BIG EAST Tournament (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

The Marquette Golden Eagles (10-3, 4-2 BIG EAST) swept the St. John’s Red Storm (10-4, 6-2 BIG EAST) in the semifinal round of the BIG EAST Conference Tournament Friday afternoon at the D.J. Sokol Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.

Prior to the matchup, the Golden Eagles had not played competitively since March 6. However, with their efficient offensive and defensive play, it did not seem as though they had a month long break due to COVID-19 cases within the program.

“We had a lot of pent-up energy from being in a hotel room or your dorm room by yourself, or your apartment by yourself for about 14 days,” head coach Ryan Theis said. “So, getting to play someone else was just what we needed at this point.”

Sophomore outside hitter Hannah Vanden Berg led the team in kills with 12, followed by senior outside hitter Hope Werch with 10. Graduate student middle blocker Savannah Rennie also added nine kills, while senior right-side hitter and setter Taylor Wolf tallied 20 assists and 13 digs.

Theis said he was proud of how his team worked offensively, as Marquette ended the day with a .280 hitting percentage compared to St. John’s .083.

“We did a good job in serve, pass tonight,” Theis said. “I thought our numbers, offensively, were pretty efficient.”

Marquette came out energetic, jumping out to an early lead that put them up 8-5. The match consisted of two kills from both Wolf and Rennie, and ended on a Werch block to give the team a 25-17 first set win.

The second set started out strong for MU again, as they went on a 5-0 scoring run. Werch threw down a kill later in the set to put the Golden Eagles up 16-9. Vanden Berg also slammed down two more kills after that, before Rennie put the set to rest on a service ace.

Marquette’s defense played up to St. John’s caliber, as they were able to stay in control of the BIG EAST Player of the Year, junior outside hitter Efrosini Alexakou, through the first two sets. Theis said he was pleased with his team’s ability to defensively handle SJ, as the second set concluded with a final score of 25-17.

“We handled their pace,” Theis said. “They have some pretty heavy arms and only a couple got away from us (where) we couldn’t handle the heat. For the most, part we did a good job”

The final set started off with more dominance from the Golden Eagles. They went on a 3-0 run, which consisted of two consecutive kills from Vanden Berg. However, the Red Storm were not going to give up easily, as they got their first lead of the day courtesy of a 4-0 run. Alexakou added her 12th kill of the day to put her team up 17-14.

The Golden Eagles were able to come back and tied the set at 19 after an ace from sophomore middle blocker Claire Nuessmeier. Another block by Werch completed the team’s sweep, 27-25.

Theis said that his team focus prior to the match was based around the fundamentals and strategies that could help them win through diligent training with the players.

“We tried to get in as much six on six as we could without injuring people or overusing our athletes within under two hours,” Theis said. “We just didn’t want to go too far and all of a sudden end up with stress related injuries or too fatigued and injury happens.”

St. John’s was led by Alexakou, who collected 13 kills, seven digs, five blocks and one assist. Junior right-side hitter Rachele Rastelli followed with nine kills, four digs, three aces and two blocks, while senior setter Tiziana Baumrukova totaled 28 assists and six digs.

With Marquette stamping their ticket to the BIG EAST Conference championship match, they now look ahead to facing the Midwest Division’s No. 1 seed, Creighton (11-3, 7-1 BIG EAST), tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. CST. The winner of the title match will get an automatic bid to the NCAA Volleyball Tournament, which begins April 14.

Creighton has won six of their last seven games, including three in a row. During the regular season, Marquette and Creighton split their two matches against each other. Marquette lost the first match 2-3 Feb. 5, but came back to sweep the Bluejays 3-0 the next day.

The match will be televised on FS1.

This story was written by Molly Gretzlock. She can be reached at Molly.gretzlock@marquette.edu or on Twitter @MollyGretzlock.