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Marquette Volleyball Weekend Preview: vs Villanova & vs Seton Hall

The Golden Eagles will need to bounce back quickly from Wednesday's loss, as they host the undefeated Pirates on Saturday, not to mention Friday's contest against the Wildcats.

Losing to Butler in their rec center in the middle of the day is generally not a great way to spend a Wednesday.  It was Marquette's first loss to a Big East team that's not Creighton since September of 2010, which adds a little bit extra sting to the notch in the loss column.  But, ultimately, it hasn't hurt the Golden Eagles' quest for a second straight Big East title.  This weekend's matches bring us to the halfway point of the league schedule, which means Marquette gets to take a second swing at each of their conference foes starting next week.

More importantly, they close out the front half of league play by tangling with the team that's currently sitting in first place.  As things stand now, MU sits in third place at 5-2, one game back of 6-1 Creighton and two back of the aforementioned first place and undefeated Seton Hall.  But before Autumn Bailey and friends can deal with the Pirates, there's a Friday night contest to deal with...

Big East Match #8: vs Villanova (10-12, 3-4 Big East)

When: Friday, October 17, 2014, at 7pm Central
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: Home matches mean live free video streaming, on top of some live stats, too.
Special Promotions: If you attended a volleyball camp over the summer, you get in for free!
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

That 10-12 record looks pretty gnarly, but I think it's important to mention that the Wildcats opened the season 4-7.  Even  more importantly, three of the losses were to at-the-time #3 Penn State, #15 San Diego, and #24 Kansas.  I mean, yeah, they got swept in all three matches, but hey, it's not all bad.

What is bad is losses against the entire top half of the standings: home vs Seton Hall & Creighton and on the road against Butler and Xavier.  Marquette is the only top division team they haven't played yet, and if Nova has their eyes on one of the four Big East tournament slots, they're going to need to beat one (or two or three) of the top five teams eventually.

Lauren Carpenter ranks fifth in the Big East in kills with 3.72/set, but she's the only Wildcat averaging more than 2.2.  That's... not great?  Junior Emma Pettit leads the team in assists at 6.6 per set, but she's missed eight sets this season.  Senior setter Allie DiBernardo has played a little bit more than Pettit, but averages 3.97 assists.  The end result is the Wildcats ranking 8th out of 10 teams in assists.  Freshman Allison Fitzgerald leads the team in digs at 4.4 per frame, which is 4th best in the league.

Big East Match #9: vs Seton Hall (17-3, 7-0 Big East)

When: Saturday, October 18, 2014, at 6pm Central
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: Fire up Fox Sports Go, because this one's on the Big East Digital Network.  Add some live stats to your experience.
Special Promotions: It's Kids Club Movie Night at the Al, starting at 4pm.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

The Pirates come in riding an 11 game winning streak.  Their early season performance (10-3) reminded me of their 2012 season where they came into Big East play 11-1, but stumbled to a 6-9 league record and didn't even qualify for the Big East tournament.

The Manthorpe sisters were sophomores on that squad, and perhaps they learned something about keeping a good thing going.  Shelbey has been named Big East Offensive Player Of The Week twice this season, and averages 9.52 assists for the Pirates.  She also chips in 1.59 kills and 2.88 digs, while sister Stacey leads the team in kills at 3.25 per frame.  That mark has Stacey ranked 8th in the Big East.  Stacey's even more active on the backline than Shelbey is, contributing 3.55 digs/set, the 10th best average in the league.

While the Manthorpes are doing the heavy lifting, Seton Hall's not without other contributors.  Sophomore Tessa Fournier is the team leader in digs at 4.97/set, which ranks her second best in the Big East.  Ashani Rubin and Amanda Hansen form an imposing pairing at the net, with Rubin leading the Big East in blocks at 1.48 and Hansen coming in with the 4th best mark at 1.18 per set.