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2015 Season Preview: Three Questions For Marquette Volleyball

We wrap up our season preview with three pressing questions for the upcoming campaign.

Meghan Niemann looks to guide the Golden Eagles to their 5th straight NCAA tournament.
Meghan Niemann looks to guide the Golden Eagles to their 5th straight NCAA tournament.

1) Who are going to be the offensive stars?

In 2014, Marquette had the best hitting percentage in the Big East and the second best kills per set average in the league.  But now, this season, the Golden Eagles have lost their three best attackers from that team for various reasons.  Meghan Niemann is the best returning attacker on the team, and she only averaged 1.88 kills/set.  That's not going to get it done.

So head coach Ryan Theis is going to have to rely on new faces in his offense.  Last Sunday afternoon, the Golden Eagles hosted an open scrimmage, and redshirt freshman Taylor Louis came out on top with 19 kills in three sets.  That's, uh, a pretty good average.  In the tweets that @MarquetteVB posted from the scrimmage, they mentioned Louis as the lead performer in sets 1 and 3, while Joy Miley was the notable performer in the middle stanza with three kills.  I know that on the surface it's hard to get excited about three kills, but only one Golden Eagle averaged more than three kills/set a year ago, so I'll take that from Miley in a hurry.

2) How good of a coach is Ryan Theis?

One year ago, Ryan Theis took over a team that was essentially completely assembled by Bond Shymansky and did exactly what was expected: Took them back to the NCAA tournament.

This year, things are different.  His roster has been decimated by transfers and two players ending their collegiate careers.  He's having to reassemble things on the fly while attempting to keep the biggest hot streak in program history going.  Just four years ago, Marquette had never been to the NCAA volleyball tournament, and now they're on a four year appearance streak.  If I had to guess, I'd guess that the pieces are there for Theis to assemble a fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance.  However, he's going to have to do with with a number of players who either have no collegiate experience or are just learning how to play with their new teammates.  If Theis can do it, we're going to know exactly how good of a coach he is.

3) Is this an NCAA tournament team?

I'm leaning towards yes.  Not because I think it's actually possible for Taylor Louis to average six kills a set.  That's crazy.  As I said in the last answer, I think the pieces are there.  Sara Blasier is a hell of a setter, and can mix it up and contribute more than just passing.  There's a number of talented hitters on the squad that just haven't gotten to show what they can do, particularly Louis and Miley, who were both top 100 recruits coming out of high school.  The defense is largely set with Lauren Houg and Ellen Hays.  Meghan Niemann and Teal Schnurr have the middle of the front line taken care of, and whatever Jenna Rosenthal can contribute there is just icing on the cake.

The problem is the Big East.  Creighton might be the only other legitimate NCAA hopeful in the league.  Marquette is going to have to run roughshod on the rest of the league to bolster their record, and they're going to have to do themselves some favors in the non-conference schedule.  They've got a crack at #21 Iowa State right in the opening weekend, and pulling off the upset would do a heck of a lot of good to get the season running on the right track.