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Marquette Volleyball Weekend Preview: The Marquette Invitational


My gods, that mascot is still frightening.
My gods, that mascot is still frightening.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

While it's exciting that Marquette is finally rolling out the teraflex floor at the Al McGuire Center, there is a slight bit of reservation necessary.  Junior Sara Blasier missed the last two matches with an unspecified injury as the Golden Eagles went 1-1 in those contests.  In fairness to the rest of the team, the loss was to #22 Kansas, so it's hard to say if Blasier being available would have really had any effect on the outcome.

As far as Blasier's status for this weekend, head coach Ryan Theis told Marquette Wire's Andrew Goldstein that it's possible that she could play at some point in these three matches.  The better news there is that Blasier's injury isn't expected to keep her out for an extended period of time.  Even better than that, there's no mention of Taylor Louis's ankle in Goldstein's article.  She suffered a minor injury in the second set against the Jayhawks, but ended up finishing the match.  With no mention of it now, I have to presume that Marquette's best attacker is ready to go.

This will be the last set of matches before MU starts the Big East schedule next week, but it won't be the last non-conference action of the season.  There's still a match against UW-Milwaukee in late October to be played.

Match #10: vs Wichita State (7-4)

When: Friday, September 18, at 7pm Central
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: No streaming because men's soccer is playing at the same time.  Live stats, though.
Special Promotions: FREE food for students!  That's the most details I've got for you.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

The Shockers had a four game winning streak snapped in their most recent outing, but it's not as bad as it sounds.  They were playing #7 Illinois, and it was their fifth match in three days in their own tournament, which also included a five set win over #22 Kentucky.  WSU hasn't shied away from playing a tough schedule this season, as they also tangled with #18 Hawaii in a tournament that the Rainbow Wahine hosted.

Wichita State went 20-10 a year ago, and this year they're the pick to win the Missouri Valley Conference.  They picked up seven of the 10 first place votes in the MVC preseason poll to get 97 points and finish comfortably in front of Missouri State's 87 points.  I feel it's important to mention that Marquette beat Missouri State in their building already this season.

The MVC only names a six person preseason all-conference team, and thus WSU only has one rep on the team.  That's Abbie Lehman, who is the reigning MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Week.  Not Volleyball Player of the Week, no, Lehman was named the best athlete in the entire dang conference, at least out of those with sophomore standing and at least a GPA of 3.20.  She averaged 2.72 kills per set last weekend, and is averaging three even over the whole season.  That number leads the team, and they have five regulars that average at least a kill and a half.  Sophomore Emily Hiebert (10.51 assists/set) handles the passing, while junior libero Dani Mostrom takes care of the back end with 4.28 digs/set.

Match #11: vs Albany (5-4)

When: Saturday, September 19, 2015, at 12pm Central
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: Home matches get FREE video streaming, plus live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

If we want to judge things totally by teams that are getting votes in the AVCA Top 25, this will be the most challenging weekend of the season for the Great Danes.  With Marquette and Wichita State on the schedule, Albany will see teams receiving votes for the first time all season, and since they're barely above .500 for the season, that's not saying much about how strong of an opponent they'll be for the Golden Eagles.

With that said, they have won three of their last four, including both of their last two contests against Rutgers and Colgate.  On top of that, the Danes were picked to finish second in the America East this season after reaching the AE tournament final a year ago.  Albany received two first place votes along the way and finished just four points behind favorite New Hampshire.

The Albany offense is focused through two women: Laini Leindecker and Shannon Hurley.  Both of them are averaging over three kills per set, and Leindecker finds time to get to over three digs per frame, too.  Leindecker and Hurley might be productive attackers, but they're not efficient: Both of them are sub-.200 hitters.  Mikala McCauley handles the setting, but she only averages 8.44 assists.  Albany relies on a freshman at libero, as Nicole Otero averages 4.56 digs.

Match #12: vs IUPUI (7-4)

When: Saturday, September 19, 2015, at 7pm Central
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: Home matches get FREE video streaming, plus live stats.
Special Promotions: The first 400 students to attend get a FREE "All In" shirt!
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

The Jaguars come in having won four of their last five matches.  That's quite the impressive hot streak, given their overall record.  They have five set wins over West Virginia and Indiana State, plus sweeps of Toledo and Youngstown State.  They've also faced off with two ranked opponents this season, and while they got swept in both matches, #15 Kentucky and #19 Michigan State are understandable losses.

IUPUI was picked to finish second in the Summit League this season.  I go out of my way to point this out, because Marquette has already lost to Oral Roberts this season, and ORU was picked to finish fourth in that league this season.  The Jaguars snared two of the first place votes in the voting, which is actually kind of low, when you consider than they've at least shared in the last three Summit League regular season titles.

Senior Kaitlyn Hickey might only stand 5'10", but she's a three-time all-Summit League performer, and she's currently leading the Jags in kills at just short of four kills a frame.  Three more attackers average more than two kills, and a fourth racks up just over one kill per set.  Setter Alexis Mapes is no threat at the net (only seven kills on the season), but she's averaging 9.58 assists this season.  We'll probably see a bit of Ashley Hacker (4.32 assists/set) at some point in the match, as she's played in 22 of IUPUI's 39 sets this season.