by Troy A. Sparks
There was no football for the Green Bay Packers during their bye week, but the weekend of Nov. 12-14 brought plenty of sports action from the campus of Marquette University.
Take your pick of Marquette sporting events to attend. To my recollection, there hasn’t been this much action involving four of the Golden Eagles teams in one weekend and in one city.
The biggest event out of the four over that weekend, I thought, was the volleyball team playing for the Big East Championship at the Al McGuire Center, Nov. 14, against 19th-ranked Cincinnati.
If you followed the volleyball program over the last two seasons, it was headed in the opposite direction. A coaching change, and a renewed commitment to improve, makes the future bright for the program.
I got a chance to see the 2010-11 edition of the Marquette women’s basketball team, Nov. 13. I have a feeling that the squad will go through their growing pains and will probably sit in the middle of the pack in the conference.
“You just take baby steps, like we did (in first game),” Marquette coach Terri Mitchell said. “I don’t look at the score (an 88-46 win vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff). I look at the statistics. I look at the things we did defensively. Obviously, there’s always room for improvement. But it’s for us taking game No. 1 and see how we can improve to get ready for game No. 2.”
The Lady Lions weren’t much of a challenge for the Golden Eagles, but hey, it was a real game. Mitchell played everyone who dressed. Expect her to put 7-10 players in the rotation in non-conference and at least eight in conference play.
Last year, Jasmine Collins wasn’t even a blur on the radar screen. She wasn’t motivated enough to put in the effort to get decent playing time. After the sense of urgency, and a challenge over the summer from Mitchell, the senior got it in gear. Collins’ final stats were decent in her first game: Six points in 17 minutes of action.
“I probably challenged her, and she took the challenge, and now you’re seeing the results of that challenge,” Mitchell said. “She knows every game and every practice is an opportunity to get on the court.”
As first game jitters go for the men’s basketball team, there was no time to experiment. Coach Buzz Williams was upfront in his evaluation of his team in their first game of the season, Nov. 12, at home against Prairie View A&M.
“I thought we did some really good things,” Williams said. “I thought there were definitely some things that looked like this was our first game.”
On this particular Sunday, I realized that I couldn’t be in two places at once. The men’s game was at 1 p.m. on Nov. 14 and the volleyball game at 2 p.m. Bucknell gave the men’s team an early challenge in the O’Reilly Auto Parts/CBE Classic. It was a tough stretch for the hoops team throughout the half. It was too bad that I couldn’t stick around to watch the second half.
So, I go up the street to the AL to catch the volleyball game after watching a little of the men’s game. I left the Bradley Center around 1:57 p.m. when halftime began with the men’s team trailing the Bison, 41-33. I arrived at the AL around 2:15 p.m. after walking up the hill on W. Wells St.
The volleyball game was a big deal. You wouldn’t put Marquette volleyball and Big East Championship match in the same sentence. When I saw the volleyball team back in September in their first weekend home matches, they were sitting ugly with a 3-4 record.
Fast forward to this month and look at their progress. It shouldn’t be a surprise that they were playing visiting Cincinnati with the conference title on the line. The net minders went 18-3 since then, reeling off 14 straight wins. The Golden Eagles volleyball team (11-2 conference) and the Bearcats (12-1) played hard. Unfortunately, Cincinnati, with their 25-18, 25-16 and 25-20 wins, walked out the AL with the Big East title and a 3-0 sweep.
While that match was going on, I didn’t know if the men’s basketball team could come back from their deficit. Whatever Williams said to his team in the locker room worked. They came out smoking.
After Bucknell held their last lead of the game with 10 minutes 15 seconds in the second half, Marquette went on a 24-0 run to lead, 69-57. They went on to win, 72-61. Dwight Buycks led the team with 17 points. Junior college player of the year and transfer Jae Crowder had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Marquette women’s soccer team had their NCAA regional final match at Valley Fields against in-state rival Wisconsin. The walk down there was too long, and I didn’t want to sit out in the cold to watch soccer.
We got updates during the volleyball game on how the game went. The 12th-ranked Golden Eagles took an early 1-0 lead. They scored again later in the game and the Badgers scored twice. The match went into overtime tied at 2-2. After two overtimes, the game was decided on penalty kicks. The Golden Eagles outshot the Badgers, 5-4. They have a third round game against Florida State.
And for you Packer fans who missed all that action, the green and gold won’t be home again until December 5 because they have two straight games on the road.
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