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Marquette Volleyball Weekend Preview: at Butler & at Xavier

The Golden Eagles don’t have a lot to play for this weekend, but they have a lot to get organized.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana State at Butler Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

When Marquette lost to St. John’s last Sunday afternoon, they didn’t really lose much other than the match. Even with the loss, they were still locked into the 2-3 semifinal in the Big East tournament. Creighton wasn’t going to come back down to them and Seton Hall couldn’t get into a tie with them.

While there wasn’t much in terms of real stakes for the game, Marquette did show a large amount of vulnerability in that match, and for about a set and a half against Seton Hall the day prior. The Golden Eagles.... just weren’t very good, which is a massive shift from where they were coming into the weekend. Sure, Creighton is the clear class of the league, and sure, Marquette dropped a home game to Villanova back when we thought Villanova might actually be doing something interesting this season. Marquette didn’t look bad in those matches, they just got beat. It happens.

Losing to a team that came into the weekend with just five Big East wins through 15 matches? That’s no good.

As much as there wasn’t really anything on the line when Marquette lost last weekend, there’s even less on the line on this road trip to close the season. With a four team conference tournament, it really doesn’t matter whether MU or Xavier gets the two seed or the three seed, especially since Butler is hosting the event. The big goal for Marquette in these last two matches will be to iron out whatever weird wrinkles they found in their game last weekend before heading back to Indianapolis next weekend for the Big East tourney. There’s also the issue of putting a little bit of a shine back on their NCAA tournament resume. After that loss to the Red Storm, Marquette has slipped down to #35 in the NCAA’s RPI. That’s starting to edge a little too close to the cut line for at-large bids. The good news is that Butler is #119 and Xavier is #80. Playing them in road matches will help boost MU a little bit, and getting wins against both of them will help even more.

Taylor Louis Watch: The redshirt sophomore is currently sitting on 1,067 kills in her still very young collegiate career, but that’s also the ninth best total in program history. She probably can’t catch Meghan Devine (1,133) for eighth place this weekend, but she’s close and 5th place is only another 35 kills past Devine. Louis has 456 kills just this season, which is the 10th most in a single season. Moving into 7th place (Vesna Grbavac, 479) by Saturday night is completely within reason, and if she catches a hot streak or matches go longer than three sets, moving up to fifth place (Theresa Coughlin, 488) is possible.

Jenna Rosenthal Watch: If Rosenthal goes crazy with blocks this weekend, the redshirt sophomore could catch Tricia McCarthy for the 10th most assisted stuffs in program history. She has 252, McCarthy has 263. Rosenthal averages 1.32 per set, and if she maintains that pace, that would get her to 260 if things end in straight sets. Rosenthal also has the third most assisted blocks in a single season at 119, meaning she’s only chasing her own freshman year (133) and Meghan Niemann’s sophomore year (135). Again, she’d have to get a little crazy with the rejections, but at her average, she’ll be close just on the six guaranteed sets.

Sara Blasier Watch: The senior setter has the seventh most assists in program history (2,241) in just under two seasons of action for the Golden Eagles. At a shade under 10 helpers per set, she could catch Katie Weidner (2,308) for fourth place with a little bit of accuracy from her hitters or even just one four set contest over the weekend.

Big East Match #17: at Butler (19-13, 8-8 Big East)

When: Friday, November 18, 2016, at 5pm CT
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN
Audio/Visual: Live stats and that’s it. Join the 21st century, Butler.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 9-6 all time against Butler, but be advised: The Golden Eagles have won eight out of the last nine meetings.

Since Last We Met: Butler has been determined to prove that things come in threes. They followed up the loss to Marquette with three straight wins, followed by three straight losses, and right now, they’re on a three match winning streak.

That winning streak has the Bulldogs on the edge of pushing their way into the Big East tournament, which is a Big Deal since they’re hosting the thing. They’re currently half a game back from Seton Hall (9-8), as the Pirates are one match ahead in the standings because the luck of the draw has them closing with a match against their travel partner. The Bulldogs need the Pirates to lose to St. John’s and then they still need to beat Marquette and DePaul to be able to get the fourth seed in the conference tournament. Seton Hall took both of their meetings this season, so the Bulldogs can’t rely on a tiebreaker.

Their efforts to play their way in and/or Marquette’s efforts to stop them begin and end with Anna Logan. The sophomore from Indy leads the Big East in kills this season at 4.40 per set, just a shade more than Taylor Louis. Whitney Beck (2.72/set) provides a little bit of pop for the Bulldogs, but it’s going to be pretty much Logan or nothing else. Makayla Ferguson (9.80 assists/set) handles the setting duties for a Butler squad that’s probably underrated when it comes to passing, as they average the third most assists in the Big East.

Taylor Takeda patrols the back line, averaging just over four digs per frame, but Butler’s not going to be able to challenge Marquette at the net very well. They don’t have anyone averaging a block per set, although two Bulldogs are just barely below that plateau.

Big East Match #18: at Xavier (17-12, 11-5 Big East)

When: Saturday, November 19, 2016, at 5pm CT
Where: Cintas Center in Cincinnati, OH
Audio/Visual: The Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go has the free video stream & there’s live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette holds a 10-7 all time series lead over Xavier, with an 8-5 margin since the Golden Eagles moved to Division 1 in 1986.

Since Last We Met: The Musketeers have been on a bit of a tear. They’ve gone 9-2 since getting swept by the Golden Eagles, with losses only on the road against Creighton and at home against Villanova.

That hot streak has popped Xavier into third place in the Big East, just a game back from Marquette. The Golden Eagles won the first meeting between the two squads this season, so the Musketeers would probably prefer to see MU lose to Butler before beating them on Saturday just to avoid any tiebreaker complications.

Abbey Bessler was Big East Player of the Year in 2015, and while she’s clearly the leader of this XU team, she hasn't quite been that good this year. (Let’s just ignore the fact that she was actually the third best player last year for now.) Bessler is third in the league in kills, although it’s a big drop off to her from Taylor Louis, and she’s fifth in the league in points per set. Xavier’s offense clearly runs through her, as Bessler has nearly twice as many attacks than any of her teammates, and she’s not a slouch on defense either, ranking second on the team in digs.

Xavier continues to deploy a setter rotation, with Mackenzi Humm (6.04 assists/set) getting the start most of the time. McKena Estes (5.24 assists/set) has played in all but three sets this season, so Marquette will see their fair share of her at setter as well.