It's a big weekend for Marquette athletics, so let's get started with the team that's ending their regular season on Saturday night!
South Florida (10-4-2, 6-1-2 Big East) provides the opposition on Saturday night as #18/#15 Marquette will celebrate the careers of six of their players on Senior Night. Seniors Ally Miller, Rachel Brown, Rachel Sloan, Lisa Philbin, Megan Jaskowiak and redshirt junior Sam Vicker will all be honored. This is also the team's first match since clinching their fourth consecutive American Division title, so I'd imagine that there's some hardware to be handed out as well.
The Bulls have already locked up second place in the American Division and the home Big East Championship quarterfinals match that goes along with it. They got there by being incredibly stingy on defense: They haven't given up a goal in 387 minutes, and since the last goal they gave up was a penalty kick, they haven't given up a goal in regular play in over 526 minutes. USF is 6-0-1 in their last seven matches, and four of those wins were 1-0 shutouts. They've gotten that goal early and late in those matches, so if this match goes deep without a goal, USF won't get uptight about it.
Junior forward Sharla Passariello leads USF's offense with seven goals and three assists for 17 points and a tie for 8th best in the Big East. Christiane Endler has been excellent in goal with the fourth best goals-against average in the league (.067) and the fourth best save percentage (.853).
29 straight regular season wins. That's how well Coach Bond Shymansky's crew has played against the section of the Big East that doesn't include this weekend's opponents. But against Louisville and Cincinnati in that stretch? One win and three losses. Marquette heads into the weekend undefeated in conference matches, but they were undefeated in conference matches when they played Louisville and Cincinnati last year and lost both matches. But those matches were on the road. This time, the Cardinals and Bearcats have to come to the Al McGuire Center.
First up is Cincinnati (8-13, 6-2 Big East) tonight at 7pm. The Bearcats struggled to start the season under new head coach Molly Avery, losing their first five matches and 11 of their first 13. But they've won their last four and currently sit in fourth place in the Big East. Senior Jordanne Scott is taking a run at Big East Player Of The Year with the second best kills average at 4.41 per set. But the Bearcats' attack runs through Scott, as she has almost 400 more attacks than anyone else on the roster. Senior Rachel Rohlfs is third in the conference in assists (10.94/set) and junior Emily MacIntyre is fifth in the Big East in digs (5.22/set).
Sunday brings Louisville (18-3, 7-1 Big East) to the AMC starting at 2pm. The Cardinals are ranked #15 in the country in the most recent AVCA poll, while Marquette currently sits two spots outside the top 25. UL is tops in the conference in both kills and assists, and they have individual kills leader Lola Arslanbekova (4.95/set) and a setter combo of freshman Katie George (5.88 assists/set) and junior Hannah Kvitle (6.16 assists/set) to thank for that. When it comes to defense, senior Gwen Rucker leads the Big East with 1.34 blocks/set, while junior Caitlin Welch is fourth in the conference in digs (5.27/set).
#5/#4 Marquette hosts Seton Hall (6-8-0, 2-3-0 Big East) on Saturday afternoon at 1pm as they look to keep pace with Georgetown and Connecticut atop the Blue Division. Saturday's match will be the third straight match for the Pirates against a nationally ranked opponent, and with a home-and-home with Georgetown to close the season, that streak's probably not ending any time soon. Junior Max Garcia leads SHU with 15 points (6G, 3A), which has him tied with MU's Bryan Ciesiulka and Connecticut's Allando Matheson for seventh best in the Big East. Junior Kevin Bonder and senior Michael Kuzan have split the goaltending exactly 50/50 this season, but Bonder (2.86 GAA, .556 SV%) has played in four of the last five outings.