SENECA — It's easy to get pumped up for a big volleyball match, and that adrenaline helped Marquette start fast, play fast and take a huge lead early in the first set against Seneca here on Thursday night.
But once the Lady Irish were able to shake that off and slow things down, the more in control of the match they became.
The Lady Crusaders rolled to a 9-0 lead in the first game thanks to a sideout kill and eight service points by Aubrey McCallum. But after a timeout in the middle of that run, Seneca calmed down and battled back to eventually take their first lead at 16-15, then won the set.
Grace Alley then posted a critical seven-point burst in the second to send the Lady Irish to an intense 25-19, 25-18 Tri-County Conference victory.
Seneca moved to 16-2, 3-0 in the league by using aggressive serving led by Alley, solid back-row defense paced by Gillian Culbreth and standout play by the front line by Lexi Greve and Hannah Berg, who finished with nine and eight kills, respectively, against the imposing size of Marquette's front liners.
The Lady Cru fell to 9-3, 2-1 this season, despite eight points and seven kills from Aubrey McCallum.
"It definitely didn't look like it was going to be our night, not at first," said Seneca coach Noah Champene. "Fortunately for us, we were able to gather ourselves at that timeout. After that, we were able to slow the game down and take it one pass at a time, and that helped us chip away at their lead. Hannah Berg came through with some nice hits, our setters were smart with the ball and kept chipping away until we were back in it ... We played some very solid defense, got some key blocks and kept them off-balance with some good serves, as well.
"It's definitely intimidating to see their front line of 6-footer after 6-footer after 6-footer it seems, but our front line really stepped up tonight. I can't imagine them playing much better than they did tonight."
It was McCallum that came out like a house afire, blasting the sideout winner and then serving up two aces in her 9-0 run. The timeout called by Champene at 5-0, however, settled his club and though the MA lead was extended, it was relatively short-lived.
Two points from Alley, two from Kylie Winsor and three from Abriana Jashari — including a tip and a slam from Berg — pulled the home team within 11-10. With the score knotted at 15, a kill by Greve and an MA passing error gave the Irish the lead for good. Three Lady Cru hitting errors and a passing miscue gave Seneca its last four points.
Set 2 was tied at 4-4 on a sideout kill by Alley, then the senior jump-served in seven points in a row to give SHS a commanding lead. The visitors got as close as 14-11 on a McCallum kill and later 19-17 on an Ellie Eager block of an Alley tip, but that was all. A pair of points by Alley, an Marquette service error and a kill by Greve set up Kylie Winsor's match-ending ace.
"We came out big and then I'm not sure what happened, It just stopped," said MA coach Mindy McConnaughhay. "We came out maybe a little too excited and we had a ton of hitting errors. We weren't communicating well at all. It was all sort of a jumble. Definitely helter skelter out there and tonight was not the night to have that kind of game. Give Seneca credit. They fought hard and they're a very good team that hits well, but we gave a lot of this game away."