Last weekend, Marquette bought themselves some space in the Big East standings with wins over Butler and Xavier. The wins boosted the Golden Eagles into a tie for second place in a league where only the top four teams qualify for the conference tournament. Even better, MU currently holds the tiebreaker over Seton Hall, so that gives them an extra layer of security.
Erin Lehman made a surprise appearance in the starting lineup in both weekend contests for the Golden Eagles, her first such nods since August 30th. She responded with aplomb, contributing 2.67 kills per set to Marquette's attack. Gabby Benda and Mary Nilles are still splitting time, which could be a case of dealing with whatever foot injury that Benda had following the St. John's match.
This match will be a homecoming for head coach Ryan Theis, as he graduated from UWM. He was a part of the Panthers' men's volleyball program when they dropped it from varsity to club level, and he had a chance to work with then-associate head coach Susie Johnson, who is now running the show on the East Side.
Match #26: At UW-Milwaukee (14-10)
When: Tuesday, November 4, 2014, at 7pm
Where: Klotsche Center in Milwaukee, WI
Audio/Visual: Gotta love the Horizon League Network video streaming! The match will also be tape delayed on Time Warner Cable Sports, but not until Wednesday night. Live stats this-a-way.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB
Oddly, with their 14-10 record, the Panthers will provide MU with a bigger boost to their NCAA tournament profile than almost all of the rest of conference play will. To wit: Marquette is currently 21st in the RPI, while UWM is 98th. Trailing the Panthers: St. John's (#140), Villanova (#156), DePaul (#293), and Providence (#301). And everyone said I was crazy to worry about how the rest of the Big East needed to catch up to Marquette and Creighton in volleyball.....
The Panthers come in to the match having won their last three games and five of the last six. They're 8-2 in Horizon League action, so you can see that they struggled their way through non-conference action to open the season. UWM was an NCAA tournament team a year ago, and given their rampage through the Horizon League, they seem like the likely candidate to represent the conference in the national championship again this season.
As has been the case for the past few years, Julie Kolinske leads the UWM attack. The redshirt senior from Big Bend, WI, averages 4.06 kills/set, and she accounts for more than 27% of the Panthers' attacks on the season. She's one of four UWM players averaging more than 2.4 kills per set, but it should be noted that two of them - Maggie Dunbar and Hannah Blanchard - have both missed time this season. Junior Kayla Price dishes the balls, averaging a Koberstein-esque 11.24 assists per frame, good enough for 18th best in the country. Taylor Golabowski (4.21 digs) and Myanna Ruiz (3.26 digs) do the work on the back line, while Kaisa Mattson passes for UWM's best net defender with 0.99 blocks per set.