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Marquette Volleyball Weekend Preview: vs Providence & vs St. John's

The Golden Eagles are back at home for the first time in two weeks as they look to start racking up wins in conference play.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

With the two matches this weekend, Marquette Volleyball will hit the midway point of the league season.  They've already lost three times in the first seven contests, and I point this out because MU only lost to a Big East team four times all of last season.  Back in 2013?  Just one loss in league play.  2012, the final year of the Old Big East?  Just two conference losses.

Yep: With 11 matches left to play in 2015, Marquette is already almost halfway to as many league losses as the previous three seasons combined.  That's no way to try to reach a program record fifth consecutive NCAA tournament.

Taylor Louis continues to be one of the best attackers in the country, even after a rough weekend for the Golden Eagles.  She's averaging just barely under five kills per set, and ranks #5 in the country in that category.  It seems that things overall have slowed down as teams focus on conference play, as only North Texas' Carnae Dillard is sailing over the five kill plateau.

Louis also has more than twice as many attacks as any other player on the Marquette roster.  That kind of heavy focus on Louis' right arm has repeatedly led to struggles for Marquette when her kills aren't landing.  With Erin Lehman missing time due to injury recently, that's left Joy Miley as the only other outside hitter available for Marquette.  She's hitting about the same as Louis this season, so that's not particularly helpful.  Meghan Niemann and Jenna Rosenthal have been good when they get a chance to attack (hitting percentages of .314 & .329 respectively), but there isn't as much of a chance for them to do that from the middle hitter position.

Big East Match #8: vs Providence (10-11, 1-6 Big East)

When: Friday, October 16, 2015, at 7pm
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: Home matches have free video streaming, plus there's live stats.
Special Promotions: FREE winter hats for the first 300 students, plus every student in attendance on Friday AND Saturday will be entered in a raffle to win an Apple Watch.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Mired in a stretch where they've lost seven of their last eight matches, there is a certain amount of solace in this season for the Friars.  They've already won more games than they did in all of 2014, when they came up with only six W's.  Now they've got 10 wins, but only one of them has come against a Big East team, a 3-2 win over Seton Hall.  As long as PC can come up with two more Big East wins this season, they'll be ahead of where they were in 2014, which was their first season back in the conference after a long time in the wilderness.  Potential good news for the Friars in that regard: last year, their two conference wins came in the last six matches.

Hitting percentage is going to hurt the Friars here.  They're the second worst hitting offense in the conference (.204), and the worst hitting defense in the league (.244).  Meanwhile, Marquette has the second best offense (.247) in the Big East.  The Golden Eagles are middle of the road in the Big East as far as defense goes, but at .207, they're barely allowing teams to hit better than the Friars are hitting on their own.

Kayla Fitzgerald tops the statsheet for Providence with 3.49 kills/set, which is the seventh best mark in the Big East.  No one else ranks in the top 20 in the Big East, but there are four other attackers averaging at least two kills.  While the Friars might not be a very successful offensive squad, they're apparently a fairly efficient one.  Senior setter Jordan Wiesler is one of four setters in the Big East averaging more than 10 assists per set.  Michelle Cruz takes care of the defense, leading PC with 3.90 digs per set, plus three more players average at least two digs.

Big East Match #9: vs St. John's (13-9, 3-4 Big East)

When: Saturday, October 17, 2015, at 6pm
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: Home matches have free video streaming, plus there's live stats.
Special Promotions: Every student attending the Friday AND the Saturday match will be entered in a raffle to win an Apple Watch.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

I continue to be fascinated by St. John's struggles.  Senior Karin Palgutova, who recently became just the third Johnnies player to record 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs, is currently second to MU's Taylor Louis when it comes to kills per set, but SJU is suffering through a worse season than the Golden Eagles.  They're in the middle of the pack when it comes to hitting percentage in the Big East, but they're 9th in kills/set.  This continues a trend for the Red Storm where they clearly have an all-conference player on the roster (or two as was the case last year), but it doesn't seem to do them very much good when it comes to actually winning matches.

Right now, the Johnnies are mired in a stretch where they've lost four of their last six, and three of those losses came at home at Carnesecca Arena.  Like Marquette, they'll have played the night before this match, as they've got a contest scheduled against DePaul on Friday night.  Odds are that SJU will get right against the Blue Demons (they're only 1-6 in league play), but at least the two squads will be on even footing when it comes to rest.

While Palgutova takes care of the majority of the attacking, it's Deniz Mutlugil and Delane D`Amore leading elsewhere on the floor.  Mutlugil is 7th in the Big East in assists at 9.42/set, while D`Amore is 10th in digs at 3.24/set.  One thing that Marquette is going to have to watch out for is Danisha Moss at the net.  The redshirt sophomore from Toronto leads the Big East in blocks to this point in the season.  23 of her 92 blocks this season have been solo jobs, so MU will have to be careful when she's setting up to stuff it regardless of whether or not she's got a partner with her.