With one win this weekend in either match, Marquette clinches a Big East tournament berth. Only four teams make it into the field, and as of right now, your Golden Eagles are in second place at 11-3. Seton Hall (hey, that’s Saturday’s opponent) sits in fifth place at 8-7. A victory in either match guarantees that MU can’t finish with fewer than six losses on the season and thus can’t be caught by the Pirates.
Taking both matches this weekend will guarantee that Marquette can’t finish lower than third place. Villanova is currently in fourth place in the league with a record of 8-6. Two Marquette wins this weekend means the Golden Eagles can’t finish with a record worse than 13-5, and guarantees that MU won’t have to face Creighton in the Big East tournament until the championship match.
Marquette also has to keep their NCAA future in mind this weekend. According to Real Time RPI (The NCAA doesn’t have an official RPI on their website right now), the Golden Eagles are sitting at #31. That’s probably mostly safe in terms of an at-large bid. However, their two opponents this weekend are ranked #145 and #189, and losing a home match to either one would have a nasty impact on MU’s ranking.
Saturday, not Sunday, will be Senior Day for Marquette. Why not the last home game of the year? I don’t know, I don’t make the decisions. Anywho, Marquette has seven seniors this year - Nicki Barnes, Ellen Hays, Teal Schnurr, Joy Miley, Lauren Houg, Meghan Niemann, and Sara Blasier - so there will be a post-match ceremony on Saturday to honor them. This makes a lot of practical sense, because with seven players to honor, you’d have to start that thing about 45 minutes before the match and that’s just poor sportsmanship to inconvenience Seton Hall’s warm-ups like that.
Taylor Louis Watch: Now we really get going, as Louis starts to ascend the single season and all-time kills lists. With 420 kills this season, she has the 14th best season ever. She averages 4.38 kills per set, and with six guaranteed sets this weekend, she’s on pace to jump up to 11th (Ann Lopata, 437), and if Louis either goes wild or things go past the minimum, Ciara Jones’ 10th best season at 452 is in play as well. Seven kills get Louis to the 12th best career mark, which is held by Kristin Patterson at 1,038. With a great performance or just a fourth set in one of the matches, Louis could catch Autumn Bailey for the 11th best career kills total at 1,059.
Meghan Niemann Watch: The redshirt senior needs just eight kills for 1,000 in her career. She only averages 2.10 per set this season, so we may have to wait til Sunday to see her get there.
Jenna Rosenthal Watch: The 6’6” sophomore middle hitter needs just two assisted blocks to move into a four way tie for the fifth most in a single season at 109. A three way tie for fourth most (112) isn’t out of the question, either. Rosenthal averages 1.3 blocks per set, second best in the Big East, but that includes her solo numbers, too.
Big East Match #15: vs Seton Hall (14-14, 8-7 Big East)
When: Saturday, November 12, 2016, at 3pm CT
Where: Al McGuire Center
Audio/Visual: The Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go has the video stream & there’s live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB
The Golden Eagles hold an 11-4 lead in the all time series against the Pirates. MU is on a three match winning streak against SHU after losing to the Pirates in the Big East tournament semifinals in 2014.
Since Last We Met: The Pirates have been inching their way towards respectability, winning five times and losing three. I say “inching,” because they’ve had to go on a three match winning streak against Providence, Georgetown, and Villanova just to get back to .500.
With a loss here, Seton Hall wouldn’t be eliminated from contention for the Big East tournament. They’re even in the win column with fourth place Villanova, but trail them by one in the loss column. Getting that win over the Wildcats last weekend was crucial for SHU, as it caused a season series split, thus sending the tiebreaker on past just head to head record. The downside for them is that they have Marquette and DePaul on the road this weekend before closing with a home date against St. John’s. The odds of splitting in the Midwest this weekend isn’t great, but they’re going to have to figure out a way to do that to stay within striking distance of Villanova.
Abby Thelen is the driving force in the Pirates lineup, averaging 3.02 kills per set. They have three more attackers averaging at least two kills, but Cherise Hennigan and Dominique Mason have been part time players at most this season for head coach Allison Yeager.
The strength of the team is on defense, where 2015 Big East Libero of the Year Tessa Fournier is still holding things down. She leads the conference in digs this season, and is the only player averaging more than five per set. Fournier and her compatriots are going to be tested in this match, as they have the second worst opponent’s hitting percentage in the Big East and Marquette is the second most accurate hitting team in the league.
Big East Match #16: vs St. John’s (14-14, 5-10 Big East)
Marquette is 11-4 all time vs St. John’s, with the second meeting between the two schools last season snapping a 10 match winning streak by the Golden Eagles. Before that, SJU’s last win over Marquette came back in 2007.
Since Last We Met: The Red Storm has gone 3-6 since the Golden Eagle came to visit them in the Big Apple back in early October. A five set win over Georgetown in their most recent contest snapped a two match losing streak.
After dumping a five set loss to Villanova last weekend, St. John’s is officially out of playoff contention. With 10 losses on the league slate, the most they can hope for is a tie with fourth place Villanova, and the Wildcats swept the season series and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. Now they’re just playing out the string, and it’s probably not going to be all that fun.
SJU started league play with a record of 9-4 in non-conference matches, but they were essentially all against wildly unimpressive teams. Once they got into league play and the level of competition ramped up, the Johnnies were nowhere near able to compete.
The one thing that Marquette absolutely has to worry about against the Red Storm is their blocking defense. SJU leads the Big East in blocks, averaging 2.88 per set. Marquette is the next best team, so hopefully MU’s own size and ability to stuff attacks helps them get around Danisha Moss (1.46 blocks/set) and her teammates.
Freshman Gaia Traballi leads St. John’s in kills, averaging just a tick over three per set. She’s only hitting .185 on the year, though, so MU might be okay with letting her swing away. Fellow freshman and fellow Italian Erica Di Maulo leads the team with a very healthy 10 assists per set.