No. 8 Kentucky hands Marquette first loss of the season

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Photo by Collin Nawrocki

Graduate student outside hitter Taylor Wolfe sets up a pass in Marquette’s 3-0 loss to No. 8 Kentucky Sept. 11.

For the first time in 2021, Marquette volleyball could not come back from an early deficit, losing in straight sets to the No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats (25-21, 30-28 and 26-24) at the Al McGuire Center Saturday night.

“We scored some points against a really good team and I was pretty pleased with that,” head coach Ryan Theis said. “I’m proud of that effort and I think we can learn and grow from it quite a bit. We just have to be cleaner but Kentucky puts pressure on you and so hats off (to them).”

Saturday night’s match marked the first time fans were in the stands at the Al McGuire Center in nearly two years.

“It was amazing having fans back, that is one of the biggest things I look forward to most when we play here,” graduate student outside hitter Hope Werch said. “The crowd was really awesome, (it) pumped us up a lot,”

Most of the first frame was back and forth until Kentucky used a 6-0 run to take a 14-8 lead. The Wildcats never looked back from there, carrying their moment to the end when a service ace from senior Allie Stumler handed UK the 25-21 set win.

The second set would be more of a contested one throughout with both teams going blow-for-blow. MU held the lead early on but UK then built up steam to build a 14-10 lead.

A 6-2 run from the Golden Eagles would tie the match and put MU in paths to a set win. However, Kentucky stayed their ground putting taking the set 30-28 after Marquette couldn’t end the frame on multiple set-points.

Marquette led throughout most of the final set but couldn’t build their lead more than two, allowing Kentucky to stay in it.

After the Wildcats took a late 23-22 lead, the Golden Eagles would tie it at 24-24 but a service error from graduate student middle blocker Savannah Rennie followed by a kill from junior Azhani Tealer would give the reigning national champions the clean set-sweep.

“Without question they put a lot of pressure on you,” Theis said.

Werch notched 13 kills, eight digs and one total block on the night. While graduate student outside hitter Taylor Wolf totaled 13 kills, four digs and a block herself.

Rennie added seven kills, six digs and four blocks on the night.

Marquette (6-1) will host in-state rival No. 2 Wisconsin Sunday at 4:30 p.m. CST. The match can be watched on Fox Sports 1.

“Wisconsin is a obviously a great team, they play really clean,” Werch said. “Something that we have to do is make sure we play clean and similar volleyball we played today. Still play aggressive, still go off-hand and just try to eliminate going up two points and then having them come up two points.”

This story was written by Jackson Gross. He can be reached at jackson.gross@marquette.edu or on Twitter @JacksonGrossMU.