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Marquette Volleyball Weekend Preview: vs Providence & vs Creighton

The Golden Eagles begin the back half of the league schedule with the first and last place teams in the Big East.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Providence vs Southern California Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It’s “Ends Of The Spectrum” weekend at the Al McGuire Center, as Marquette women’s volleyball will host both the last place team in the Big East as well as the first place team.

The matches are in that order, with 1-7 Providence on Friday and 8-0 Creighton on Saturday. Obviously, the match with the Bluejays is the big one. With Marquette sitting at 7-2 in league play after the first round through the conference, the Golden Eagles can not afford a season sweep by Creighton if they want to have an outside chance at the regular season title.

They can’t overlook the Friars, either. Marquette currently has a two game lead on everyone not named Creighton in the Big East standings. That’s going to go a long way to getting MU into the four team conference tournament in late November. It doesn’t mean that they can afford to slip up against a team that has no business beating them, either.

As far as the NCAA tournament goes, Marquette can’t afford a loss to PC. Right now, the Golden Eagles are looking pretty good when it comes to the at-large picture. Their RPI rank is #30 at the moment, and with a 64 team tournament, the top 35 to 40 spots are pretty much guaranteed to get an at-large bid. Providence is second to last in the Big East at #218. Like I said, can’t afford to take the loss. Merely playing them will do a slight bit of damage to Marquette’s standing and a loss would be unimaginably bad.

The good news is MU will get a boost from playing #27 Creighton, even if it is those same Bluejays that will provide the biggest obstacle to Marquette needing to rely on an at-large bid to the national championship tournament instead of holding the Big East’s automatic spot.

Taylor Louis Watch: Well, it’s time to break this out. Through 1+ seasons in Milwaukee, Taylor Louis is sitting on 961 kills for her Marquette career. She needs just 39 to get to 1,000, and she’s within range for that this weekend. Six guaranteed sets with her average of 4.43/set this season would give her at least 26. If things go longer than three sets, or she has a crazy dominant match, then that 39 is definitely possible. Once she gets to 1,000, she’s just 61 more away from top 10 all time in program history.

Meghan Niemann Watch: The redshirt senior already has the mark for the most assisted blocks in Marquette history. She’s now making a charge on the most total blocks as well. After Saturday’s eight total blocks against DePaul, Niemann is currently sitting on 424 in her collegiate career. The only two women in front of her are familiar names in MU blocking history: Rabbecka Gonyo at 431 and Martha Mayer at 433. With two matches this weekend and only nine stuffs separating her from the record, it’s not out of the question that Niemann could be the new blocking champ by Sunday morning.

Big East Match #10: vs Providence (13-11, 1-7 Big East)

When: Friday, October 21, 2016 at 7pm CT
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: GoMarquette.com has the free video stream & there’s live stats.
Special Promotion: International students can get a tour & “chalk talk” starting at 6:15. Plus! All students who attend Friday AND Saturday get a MU Volleyball shirt!
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB &

Marquette is 6-0 all time against Providence with all but one of those contests coming since the Friars rejoined the Big East in 2014. MU has not lost a set to Providence since then, either.

Earlier This Season: Marquette won at Providence, 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-18)

Since We Last Met: Well, this section is going to be a bit longer than it looked to be 10 days ago. See, after losing to Marquette to fall to 0-2 in Big East play, PC dropped 15 of the next 17 sets. Yes, that’s right, they lost the next five matches and three of them were 3-0 sweeps. If it were not for breaking through with their first Big East win of the year against St. John’s in their most recent match, I would have just left this section as “They lost every match” and moved on.

As I mentioned in the conference schedule preview a month ago, even with the 1-7 start to league play, this is still a better season than last year for the Friars. They went 10-22 overall and 1-17 in the Big East, so if they can just swing one more league win in the second go-round, then they’ll have improved on that record as well.

This may not be a very fun match to watch. Providence and Marquette are the two best hitting percentage defenses in the conference, and Providence is the second worst hitting percentage offense, too. Marquette shredded them in the first meeting, hitting .349 against PC’s .183, though, so perhaps the Golden Eagles have the magic solution for the Friar defense.

Big East Match #11: vs Creighton (14-6, 8-0 Big East)

When: Saturday, October 22, at 6pm CT
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: GoMarquette.com has the free video stream & there’s live stats.
Special Promotion: Kids w/ a Halloween costume or youth VB shirt get in for free & the three best costumes win a prize. All fans in attendance will be eligible for prizes, including a TV, an Apple Watch, MBB tickets. Plus! All students who attend Friday AND Saturday get a MU Volleyball shirt!
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB &

Marquette is 3-11 all time against Creighton after their loss in Omaha earlier this season. The Jays have won each of the last six meetings between the two squads, with MU’s last win coming in the 2013 Big East championship match.

Earlier This Season: Creighton won in Omaha, 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-18)

Since We Last Met: Creighton has won every match they’ve played, asserting their dominance over the Big East by dropping just two sets.

Part of these previews is, obviously, looking at the opposition’s stat sheet to see who the leaders are in various categories. Sometimes this turns into just reciting it out onto the page, sometimes a stat or two leads down a rabbit hole of comparing them to Marquette players or the rest of the conference, and sometimes, not often, but sometimes what you find is legitimately surprising.

In this case, it’s that Jaali Winters, the Big East Preseason Player of the Year and the 2015 Freshman of the Year, is barely clinging to the top 10 in the league in kills this season.

A year ago, I thought the Big East’s Player of the Year race was between MU’s Taylor Louis and Winters. They were 1-2 in kills per set and the only two players averaging more than 4 kills, with Louis holding the advantage. Winters had the advantage of playing for the better team, so the case was there to be made for her. This year, she’s still leading the Bluejays in kills at 3.25/set, but that’s well off her mark of 4.07 in 2015. She ranks eighth in the Big East, but it’s not the craziest thing in the world to think that a couple of slow nights against Marquette and DePaul this weekend could slide her behind Georgetown’s Symone Speech (3.17) or the duo of St. John’s Gaia Traballi and Seton Hall’s Danielle Schroeder (both at 3.02).

This isn’t to say that Winters is bad now, of course. She’s the only player in the Big East to be top 10 in kills and digs, where she ranks exactly 10th at 2.94/set. The offense does still run through her, as she has nearly 200 more attacks than any other Bluejay. However, since she’s only hitting .192 on the year, it means her teammates are having to come through a little more than last year.

Part of the reason her teammates are providing offense around Winters is because Lydia Dimke is the most productive setter that Creighton has seen in nearly a decade. Her 11.24 assists per set are the second best mark in the Big East, and in her spare time, she chips in 1.25 kills and 2.75 digs, too.