Marquette volleyball advances to second round of NCAA Tournament after sweep over Ball State

With it dark outside and the lights of NCAA Tournament on them, the No. 4 seed Marquette Golden Eagles swept Ball State (25-20, 25-17, 25-17) Thursday night inside the Al McGuire Center to advance to the second round of NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019.

“I thought it was a really balanced effort tonight,” Marquette head coach Ryan Theis said. “Would’ve liked to have played a little bit better defense, but we got that going as the match went on and held them pretty good.”

From the first serve, the Marquette student section was energized and ruckus.

“We have a great student crowd, they always come, they have their cheers they do. A lot of them know our names which is super fun,” sophomore setter Ella Foti said. “A lot of them are our friends too which is awesome.”

The first set started back and forth with both teams scoring in two-point spurts. Marquette then went on a 3-0 run to make the score 12-9, before Ball State would come back and make the set a one-point game a 3-0 run of its own, 14-13. The Golden Eagles pulled away towards the end of the frame, taking it 25-20.

After giving up the first point of the second set, Marquette then settled into the frame going on another 3-0 run.

“Maybe a little bit of nerves,” junior middle blocker Carsen Murray said. “It’s the NCAA Tournament, it’s a huge deal so I think we got more comfortable and were like ‘okay we got this.'”

The Golden Eagles continued that momentum as they went on four total 3-0 runs and held a lead as big as eight. Foti ended the set with an ace, the fourth of the set to send Marquette into the third set on its way to a sweep.

“I thought all across the board, all six of their serving rotations, they’ve got great service pressure,” Ball State head coach Kelli Miller Phillips said. “I was joking with our staff and like ‘Can they miss one?’ because typically if you have great pressure, you’re going to make some errors. I felt like that what they just did a great job of maintaining service pressure, moving people around.”

Marquette had nine aces on the night to six service errors, while Ball State had five aces and seven service errors to give the Golden Eagles a five point advantage from the service line on the night.

Unlike the previous two frames, the Golden Eagles got out to a hot start in the third, taking a 7-1 lead all while spreading out the scoring in that run. But the Cardinals didn’t let the set get away from themselves however, as Ball State chipped away to make it a two-point game, 12-10.

Marquette then closed the door as it outscored Ball State 13-7  to win the set 25-17 and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Leading the way for Marquette was Murray with with 12 blocks while hitting .478.

“I think she certainly is a terminal attacker for them,” Miller Phillips said. “I think they got the ball to her a little bit more than typical.”

As a team Marquette hit .369 while Ball State hit .221.

Foti also contributed with nine kills, mostly coming from the right side and had eight digs and two aces for a well-rounded match.

Next up for Marquette is No. 5 seed Georgia Tech, who swept Wright State in its first round matchup, tomorrow at 6 p.m. CST with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

This article was written by Ben Schultz. He can be reached at b[email protected] Twitter @benschultz52.