The goal for this match: Don't lose.
Simple enough, right? Since the Big East's Great Reformation, Creighton is the only Big East team that has managed a win against the Golden Eagles. Going back even further, Marquette hasn't lost to a team that's currently in the Big East since September of 2010.
Now, Marquette's coming off their first conference loss of the season, to the Bluejays, of course, and that means getting back on the winning trail to keep right on Creighton's tail for the Big East regular season title. Autumn Bailey might be the focal point of the Marquette offense, but it's Nele Barber who earned the conference's attention last week. The sophomore from Germany was named to the Big East's Weekly Honor Roll after averaging 3.14 kills and 2.43 digs against Georgetown and Creighton.
We'll have to keep an eye on Gabby Benda for this match. She missed the Georgetown match completely, staying on the sidelines in a walking boot and on crutches, but she was back to splitting time with Mary Nilles against Creighton. She's apparently healthy enough to play part time, but the question is whether or not head coach Ryan Theis will want to use her again so quickly. After Xavier, Marquette will be off until Saturday, so a full week off might be better for Benda than playing part time.
Big East Match #5: at Xavier (9-7, 2-2 Big East)
I wonder how cavernous the Cintas Center is for volleyball. It's their arena for basketball, so it seats 10,250, but this season for volleyball, they're only averaging 650 fans in that space.
In any case, even though the Musketeers were picked to finish third in the Big East this season and even picked up a first place vote, you can't fault them for that 2-2 start to league action. The losses are to Creighton and Seton Hall, who are both sitting at 5-0 and in first place.
The Musketeers are 3-4 in their last seven matches, alternating wins and losses along the way. It's not the way they wanted to see how things shake out this season, especially after getting out to a 5-0 start. Now they find themselves with a match against a Marquette team that's been refocused after a loss to Creighton, and things might not be heading in the Musketeers' direction.
Marquette will have to be on their toes in this match, as Xavier ranks second in the Big East in service aces with 1.42 per set. Abbey Bessler, one of three Musketeers to be named to the Big East's preseason all-conference team, leads the team in kills with 3.56 per set, which ranks her sixth in the Big East. Aubree Smith, another all-conference honoree, leads the team in assists at 8.62/set, and Jesse Earl leads Xavier in digs with 4.39 per frame.