It was Marquette’s serve on match point. Arizona returned the serve, but Marquette blocked it at the net. Arizona recovered and set the ball to the left outside hitter. She spiked the ball into the net, giving Marquette a 15-10 third-set victory. The Marquette club volleyball team became national champions.
The team was ranked No. 3 in the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation national rankings before the tournament started and was primed to make a deep run. The club defeated the No. 1 and No. 2 teams en route to the national championship.
The Golden Eagles started out with a convincing 25-14, 25-16 victory of the Toledo Rockets in the first round matchup. The team then dispatched Texas A&M with another two-set victory. The first set allowed the Golden Eagles to cruise to a 25-19 victory. However, it wasn’t without a scare, as the team won the second set 26-24.
“Texas A&M (was) ranked No. 1 for a lot of the season,” coach Anne Pufahl said. “They were a really good team that just slipped up. The team met the challenge head-on.”
In the semifinals, Marquette faced the No. 2 team in the nation, the Texas Longhorns. Marquette was able to handle the Longhorns, defeating the team 25-18, 25-14. The Golden Eagles were primed to take on the No. 1 team in the nation in the national championships.
“Texas has been our archrivals at nationals for the last eight years,” Pufahl said. “They had probably 200 screaming fans. We were able to take control of the game and really quiet the crowd.”
In the national finals, Marquette lost its first set of the tournament, 24-26. Despite the close score, Pufahl said the score is deceiving.
“We were up 18-12, but then we got stuck in a rotation,” Pufahl said. “We just made some really dumb mistakes. We felt the pressure.”
Marquette rallied in the second, beating the Wildcats 25-22. In the third set, a tiebreaker set, Marquette won 15-10.
“After (the first set) we calmed down and took control,” Pufahl said. “The team just wasn’t going to lose. They weren’t going to let the ball hit the floor.”
Marquette has won two national championships in the last six years and has made it to the national championship game four times in the last seven years. In the past 15 years, the club volleyball team has finished in the top three of the national tournament nine times.
Pufahl said even with the program’s recent success, this season was unlike any other.
“This year, we had so many obstacles in our way … but this team kept going,” Pufahl said. “This is probably the most memorable team because they just weren’t going to lose.”
In addition to winning the championship, graduate student Molly Aikins was named MVP of the tournament. Pufahl said it was her experience that made her such a great player in the tournament.
“Not every team has a dominate outside player like Molly,” Pufahl said. “She was there in the 2008 national championship, so she’s been there. She was the leader everyone looked up to.”
The Marquette club volleyball team looks to continue the success of the program. Pufahl said with sophomores Jenny Ciriacks and Yvonne Marten, the future looks bright.