It’s such an unusual occurrence, the 4,075 BYU fans in attendance at the Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday probably weren’t even sure what they were watching.
No. 16 Marquette thoroughly outplayed No. 9 BYU in a 3-1 (22-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-12) victory in the finale of the Nike Invitational, ending the Cougars 26-match home winning streak. In fact, BYU was 63-2 in the Fieldhouse since 2015 and hadn’t been beaten here for nearly two years.
All-American Allie Barber (19 kills, .436) and Kaitlyn Lines (17 kills) led a relentless Warriors attack and a service game that kept BYU off balance all night.
Down two sets to one and needing a win in Set 4 to force a fifth, the young Cougars unraveled and got drilled 25-12 to lose its first match at home since a 3-1 loss to San Diego in October of 2017.
Losing two sets by nearly double digits was not a good way to go out in a high-profile match at home.
“They hit .354 so we couldn’t stop them,” BYU coach Heather Olmstead said. “They were exposing us on the block. I thought they did a good job taking good, high swings. I think they are a really good serve and pass team so they were in system a bunch. So the difference was serve and pass and their ability to score.”
Sophomore Madi Robinson had a career-high 18 kills and Heather Gneiting had seven block assists, but there weren’t many other highlights for the Cougars, who had too many dry spells offensively and struggled to pass consistently.
“Madi did a good job swinging high with range,” Olmstead said. “That’s her job, to get kills. She brought great energy and I thought she played well.”
BYU surged ahead 13-10 in Set 1 but the Warriors took back the lead at 21-19. Taylen Ballard-Nixon got hot down the stretch, pounding down two kills and combining with Gneiting on a block at set point for the 25-22 victory.
Marquette figured some things out defensively in Set 2 and four quick blocks got the Warriors off to a good start. A 7-0 run gave the visitors a 14-7 lead and they cruised to a 25-16 win, hitting .538 and holding BYU to .114.
BYU took a 14-11 lead in Set 3 on a service ace from freshman Abbey Dayton but Marquette didn’t stay down for long. The Cougars tied the score at 21 on a Robinson kill but Marquette surged ahead 24-22. At set point, Gneiting’s attack was ruled in but a video challenge went the Warriors way and the visitors took Set 3 25-22 to claim a two sets to one lead in the match.
A 7-0 run in Set 4 pushed the Marquette lead to 17-10 while BYU was hitting a miserable -.040. At match point, Barber tooled a shot off the block for the 25-12 win and the upset.
The victory avenged a 3-1 loss to the Cougars in Milwaukee last season.
“We’ve just got to get back to work,” Olmstead said. “We need to get better and keep the focus on us, see how we can problem solve. We’ve got a lot of moving parts and moving pieces. I think we’re going to respond great. I expect them to work hard, keep moving forward with a forward focus on our next match which is against LIU-Brooklyn. We’ll be ready to get back after it on Thursday and play another team.”
Ballard-Nixon and Kennedy Eschenberg were named to the All-Tournament team, along with Boise State’s Janelle Walley and Marquette’s Barber and Hope Werch. Lines earned the tournament MVP for Marquette (3-0).
BYU hosts the doTerra Classic beginning next Thursday, with Weber State, Sam Houston State and LIU-Brooklyn coming to the Fieldhouse.