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Marquette Volleyball Weekend Preview: USC Baden Invitational

The Golden Eagles start the season out with a tournament hosted by the #7 team in the country.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Providence vs Southern California
Little too excited there, USC mascot.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette has eight seniors this year. I had somehow missed that fact until this was posted on the volleyball Twitter:

There’s at least three starters in there: middle hitter Meghan Niemann, setter Sara Blasier, and libero Lauren Houg. Ellen Hays might work her way into the starting lineup as the next most experienced defensive specialist, and Joy Miley’s one of two outside hitters on the squad with collegiate experience. Teal Schnurr’s no slouch, either.

Man, that’s a lot of depth disappearing off the roster after this year. Gotta make hay while the sun shines, then, and this team is primed to do exactly that.

The charge will be led by Marquette’s two preseason all-Big East honorees: redshirt sophomore Taylor Louis and the aforementioned Meghan Niemann. Both women were unanimous choices to the all-league team, and heading into the season, Louis would have to be considered a candidate to unseat Creighton’s Jaali Winters by the end of the season as Player of the Year.

Blasier and Houg will be amongst the Big East’s leaders at their respective specialty in all likelihood, so it’s a matter of head coach Ryan Theis filling in the cracks around his stars. Freshman Madeline Mosher and redshirt freshman Amanda Green will get looks at outside hitter, while JUCO transfer Manon Geoffroy will assuredly get playing time on defense.

There’s no dipping their toes in for the Golden Eagles this season, as they go straight into the deep end of the pool with a ranked team to start and a 2015 NCAA tournament team the very next day.....

Match #1: at #7 USC (0-0)

When: Friday, August 26, 2016, at 10pm CT
Where: Galen Center in Los Angeles, CA
Audio/Visual: is carrying a live video stream of the game, and live stats will be here.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB & @uscwomensvolley

This will be the second meeting between the two teams, with the Trojans taking the first contest in Milwaukee in straight sets back in 2013.

USC is coming off a 33-3 season where they reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament before falling to Kansas in five sets. This year, while they’re starting the season tied with Pac 12 foe Washington as the #7 team in the country, they’re only picked to finish fifth in the Pac 12, which probably tells you a whole bunch about how strong the Pac 12 is. They were one of four teams that earned a first place vote, which is not too surprising since they’re the defending co-champions.

Brittany Abercrombie, which may be the most USC Volleyball name in recorded history, is the Trojans’ lone representative on the preseason all-Pac 12 team. That’s kind of surprising, as she’s the second best returning hitter on the squad. Abercrombie averaged 2.36 kills per set last year, while Alyse Ford averaged 2.61/set. Abercrombie was the more accurate hitter (.277 vs .238) and a little bit better at blocking (0.63 vs 0.43), so maybe that voting decision by the coaches makes sense.

Match #2: vs UC-Irvine (0-0)

When: Saturday, August 27, 2016, at 2pm CT
Where: Galen Center in Los Angeles, CA
Audio/Visual: miiiight have a video stream, but there’s definitely live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB & @UCIWVB

This will be the second meeting between the two teams. The Golden Eagles swept the Anteaters back in 2010 as part of an event hosted by Stanford.

UC-Irvine went 13-15 last year, and that’s not because they played a crazy tough non-conference schedule. They went 7-9 in the Big West, including losses in three of their last five matches. The shining spot in the lineup for the Anteaters was Harlee Kekauoha, who was named to the all-Big West team as a freshman last year.

Kekauoha returns for her sophomore campaign, and UCI is picked to finish fourth in the Big West this season. She led the team in kills last year, racking them up at a rate of 3.33 per set. The team also returns Shelley Anderson, their primary setter from last season (9.44 assists/set), as well as Luna Tsujimoto, who averaged 4.04 digs/set last year as libero.

Match #3: vs Santa Clara (0-0)

When: Saturday, August 27, 2016, at 7pm Central
Where: Galen Center in Los Angeles, CA
Audio/Visual: miiiight have a video stream, but there’s definitely live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB & @scuvolleyball

Marquette picked one heck of a time for their first ever meeting with the Broncos. Santa Clara is coming off a season where they went 22-9, posting their best winning percentage in a decade. They tied program records in home wins and West Coast Conference wins, and they went to the NCAA tournament for the third straight year and fourth time in five seasons.

On top of all of that, SCU is stacked again this year. Picked to finish third in the West Coast Conference even though they got two first place votes, they return two all-WCC First Teamers from last year in outside hitter Nikki Hess and setter Kirsten Mead. Hess has led Santa Clara in kills in each of her first three seasons, while Mead ranked 28th in the country in assists last season. Senior OH Sabrina Clayton joined Mead and Hess on the preseason all-WCC squad after leading the conference in service aces in 2015, and she’s earned Honorable Mentions in the conference’s postseason awards in each of the past two seasons.