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Marquette Volleyball Weekend Preview: at Butler & at Xavier

One last weekend in the regular season with playoff seeding on the line.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

We know which four teams are going to Omaha for the Big East tournament on November 27th.  In fact, we already know which team has claimed the regular season championship.  Creighton has just one tussle with Georgetown left to play, and thus their 16-1 record in league play has them sitting pretty in first place for good.

The next three teams are locked into the field, but they're not locked into place.  Villanova and Xavier are knotted up in second place at 12-4, and Marquette trails them at 11-5.  The drama ratchets up a bit with the Musketeers hosting the Golden Eagles in the season finale for both squads.  Marquette will play Butler Friday on their way to Cincinnati on Saturday, Xavier hosts DePaul before welcoming in the Golden Eagles, and Villanova stays at home to host Providence and St. John's.

Based on the Big East slotting Nova in second place on the official standings right now, I would presume that if that VU-XU tie remains in place on Sunday morning, Nova will get that #2 seed.  If everyone ends up at 13-5, who knows what will be the tiebreaker.  There is an outside chance that Marquette could sneak up to the #2 seed if Villanova were to lose both of their games, but given that it's just a four team tournament and #2 will play #3 in the semifinals on a neutral court, I don't know if it actually matters other than just for pride purposes.

Taylor Louis Watch: The redshirt freshman had a down weekend, particularly in Sunday's match.  Her kills average is down to 4.86 kills per set on the season, which has her ranked fifth in the country.  Barring a massive collapse down the stretch, Louis is on track to finish with the best average in school history, and her 505 kills on the season is already the fourth best campaign in school history.

Jenna Rosenthal Watch: Yeah, that's right, we've expanded the stat watch segment.  MU's other redshirt freshman has 110 assisted blocks on the season, which is the fourth best single season mark in school history.  She's just eight assisted blocks away from tying Peggy Gross' 21 year old program record.  Rosenthal averages 1.06 assisted blocks per set, and with nine sets guaranteed yet to play this season, that record is going to fall.

Lauren Houg Watch: WE'RE NOT DONE YET.  Houg is currently sitting on 535 digs this season, which means that she's recorded more digs this season than any other player in any other season in Marquette history.... except for the time when Julie Jeziorowski broke 550 and the two times that Jeziorowski cracked past 600 digs in a season.  Houg is probably not getting to the school record of 638 digs in a season unless MU has the best NCAA tournament run in program history up their sleeves, but she is closer than anyone else ever has been.

Big East Match #17: at Butler (11-18, 7-9 Big East)

When: Friday, November 20, 2015, at 5pm Central
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN
Audio/Visual: will have free video streaming AND live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Things were not going well for the Bulldogs this season after they took a 3-1 loss at the McGuire Center back on September 30.  That loss dropped them to 5-11 on the season, but at least they were sitting at .500 in league play.  They've gone 5-7 since then, which, I guess is not that much worse than .500, but it's not good, either.

On the list of potential problems for the Bulldogs is their player rotation.  Only one player, freshman Anna Logan, has played in all 112 sets for Butler this season.  That makes things sound much worse than they actually are, though, because three more players have played in 111.  You'll notice that's not six, though, or even five of the six players that you can get on the court at one time.  To give you some context on how much of a problem that is, Marquette has six players who have played in every set this season, which does not include regular setter Sara Blasier.

MU's inconsistencies due to Blasier missing some time here and there might actually help explain why Butler's been all over the page, too.  Makayla Ferguson is one of the three Bulldogs at 111 appearances this season, and she's the primary setter for the Bulldogs, but she's only averaging 7.86 assists this season.  Her problem hasn't been that Butler's been struggling, it's that freshman Meghan Cotant has played 76 sets across 25 of Butler's 29 matches.  Cotant's averaging 2.86 assists, leaving me to wonder if some of Butler's issues stem from flipping from Ferguson to Cotant as setter in the middle of matches.

Logan (3.04/set) and senior Mary Striedl (2.77/set) are the two attackers that you need to know, as they're the only two averaging more than two kills per set.  Logan's getting it done all over the court, as she's second on the team in digs (2.54/set) trailing sophomore Aki Aitsebaomo, who averages 2.70 digs per frame.

Big East Match #18: at Xavier (16-11, 12-4 Big East)

When: Saturday, November 21, 2015, at 6pm
Where: Cintas Center in Cincinnati, OH
Audio/Visual: The Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go has the free video stream, plus there's live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Normally in this space, because of the double round-robin format, I like to talk about what the opponent has been up to since their last contest against Marquette.  This plan short circuits pretty quick when something like this happens: Marquette has played the entirety of their conference slate since the last time they played Xavier.

That's a lot of games to talk about.

The Golden Eagles opened up Big East play with a 3-0 home loss to Xavier, and oh, by the way, they looked bad in the process.  The good news is that Marquette switched up their game plan to get Teal Schnurr into the game more often, and things have turned around since then.  As for the Musketeers, their conference slate has gone essentially about as well as you would have expected back at the start of the season: They lost to Creighton twice, they split with Villanova.... and lost to DePaul.  Yep, one of the four losses on the schedule for Xavier is also one of the Blue Demons' four wins.  That's unexpected, and right now, it might even cost the Musketeers a chance to avoid Creighton in the semifinals.  If Marquette comes away with the win on Saturday evening, tiebreakers might tip in favor of the Golden Eagles, sending MU to third and XU down to fourth.

Abbey Bessler is the leader for the Musketeers, and was an easy choice as their lone representative on my all-conference team.  She's averaging 3.71 kills per set, which is fourth best in the Big East.  She's also fifth in total points, and most impressively, she's ninth in digs.  That's right: Xavier's best offensive player is less than three-quarters of a dig per set behind Meredith Klare, the team's leader in that category.  That is some HUSTLIN'.

Xavier's got a bit of an interesting situation at setter.  McKena Estes and Mackenzi Humm have both played in every set this season, although Humm has gotten a majority of the starts.  Not only are they sharing time, but they're also sharing assists, and they're doing it almost completely evenly.  Estes averages 5.39 assists, while Humm manages 5.27 helpers.  That's some real solid work distribution there.  For what it's worth to you from a strategic standpoint, Humm had 23 assists against Marquette the first time around this season, while Estes got the start and notched 21 assists.