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Marquette Volleyball Preview: vs Butler & vs Xavier

The Golden Eagles look to create an advantage in the Big East standings as they come up on the three-quarters mark of the conference slate.

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Here's how the Big East standings look right now:

Team Wins Loss
Creighton 10 1
Seton Hall 9 3
Butler 8 3
Marquette 8 3
Xavier 7 4

Coming into the McGuire Center this weekend: Butler, the team that's tied with Marquette, and Xavier, the team that's just barely behind Marquette.  The top four teams in the Big East qualify for the Big East tournament (which, by the way, is in Milwaukee this year), so it would be a significant advantage for Marquette to come out of this weekend with two wins.  They'd be able to put both the Bulldogs and the Musketeers in the rear view window while closing out the season with four matches against the bottom half of the Big East (including DePaul and Providence who have one league win between them) and one against Seton Hall.

So yeah, important times right there on the corner of 12th and Wells Street over the next 30 hours.

Big East Match #12: vs Butler (16-7, 8-3 Big East)

When: Friday, October 31, 2014, at 7pm
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: Home matches have free video streaming and live stats.
Special Promotions: It's Halloween, so there's trick-or-treating, the first 200 kids get a MU pillowcase to hold their treats, and a costume contest with the winner getting a $100 Spirit Shop gift card.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Honestly, I appreciate what the Bulldogs are doing this season.  My biggest concern about Marquette in the Big East after The Great Reformation was going to be how the volleyball program fares.  Creighton's always going to be great and Marquette is poised to do the same.  But both squads need another team or two to start performing much better to help bolster the conference so things like Marquette getting completely hosed on not hosting the NCAA tournament's first two rounds last season doesn't happen.

The Bulldogs are in the midst of a five match winning streak, which includes a mid-week/mid-day home game against Marquette a little over two weeks ago.  Both the match against MU and the very next one against Xavier went five sets, so Butler's been through some battles to keep their streak going.  That may have paid off for them in their last outing, when they clipped Seton Hall in three sets, including two 25-23 frames.

Comparing the current stat page to how things looked before the previous match against Butler, it seems like Butler's winning with a bit more of a team attack.  Belle Obert's kills average is down to 3.99 per set, while it was at 4.07 two weeks ago.  Yes, it's not much, but if Butler's not having to rely as heavily on Obert for points, that's to their advantage.  Meanwhile, freshman setter Makayla Ferguson has lifted her assists average from 10.69 up to 10.79 per set.  She's still trailing St. John's Deniz Mutlugil for the conference lead, but that's still a lot of assists.

Big East Match #13: vs Xavier (14-9, 7-4 Big East)

When: Saturday, November 1, 2014, at 6pm
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: This one's on the Big East Digital Network, so grab your Fox Sports Go app, and add live stats to your experience.
Special Promotions: RAs that bring at least five students from their floor get entered into a drawing for a Best Buy & Spirit Shop gift cards.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Back on October 8th, Marquette pounded Xavier for a 3-1 win in Cincinnati.  The Golden Eagles hit .358 as a team and four players registered at least 11 kills, while the Musketeers were led by 11 kills from Kristin Massa.  Since then, Xavier has gone on a 5-1 tear with the lone loss coming against Butler.  They went five sets with the Bulldogs, and also pulled out a five set win against Seton Hall in New Jersey.

Abbey Bessler leads the Musketeers in kills, with her average of 3.60/set staking her to the fifth best mark in the league.  Bessler's one of three XU players averaging more than two kills per set, and she chips in on the defensive end, recording 2.78 digs, too.  Aubree Smith averages 9.21 assists per frame for Xavier, which has her in the bottom half of the Big East amongst setters.  Libero Jesse Earl leads the team in digs, of course (4.40/set), but she also leads the team in service aces with 0.28 per set, which is also the fourth best average in the Big East.