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Marquette Volleyball Weekend Preview: The Bluegrass Battle

The Golden Eagles have a weekend tournament in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Kentucky vs Texas A&M
I have saved you from the SLU mascot. You’re welcome.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Another weekend, another three matches in two days tournament for Marquette volleyball.

There is a slight change up to how this will go for MU this time around, though. The past two weekends, the Golden Eagles had one match on Friday followed by two on Saturday, with an NCAA tournament caliber team slotted into the third and final match of the weekend. This week, down in Lexington, Kentucky, Marquette gets the early start on Friday along with an evening match before playing just one time on Saturday. In addition to that shift, the most difficult match of the weekend will be the middle on, a Friday evening battle with a Kentucky team that just dropped out of the AVCA top 25 this week.

In their last two go-rounds, Marquette went 2-1, dropping that third and final match against a quality opponent. There has to be a slight question of fatigue involved for those losses, particularly when you look at the activity of Taylor Louis, Marquette’s lead attacker. Against Santa Clara in the opening weekend, Louis posted her lowest attack total of the tournament hosted by USC. In last weekend’s contest against Wichita State, her attacks were up, but her hitting - just .125 on 48 swings - was far from her average, and well off her pace for the 2015 season when she was an all-Big East performer.

Marquette is a deep and veteran team, but much of the team’s success is going to hinge on whether or not Louis can be the Big East Player of the Year candidate that she was in 2015. Maybe it’s just a three match in two days fatigue issue, something that will not come up again once Big East play starts on September 23rd. Marquette needs quality wins to make their sixth straight NCAA tournament, though, and if they can’t find them in the non-conference section of the schedule, they might not be there in league play at all. Remember: Only six Big East teams finished the 2015 season over .500, and only four were over .500 in matches against conference foes.

Match #7: vs Saint Louis (1-6)

When: Friday, September 9, 2016, at 10am
Where: Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, KY
Audio/Visual: Only live stats. Nice use of all of that SEC money, guys.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB & @SLU_Volleyball

This is the 36th all time meeting between the two teams, with SLU holding a 20-15 advantage in the series. They haven’t played each other since Marquette’s first match of the 2011 season, a 3-1 Billikens victory. Marquette’s most recent victory was in the meeting before that, getting a 3-2 win in Saint Louis during MU’s final season in Conference USA.

The Billikens have won seven sets in seven matches, and remember: They have a win which accounts for three of those sets. Believe it or not, this start to their season is not indicative of how they’re projected to play in the Atlantic 10 this season. Saint Louis is the co-favorites to win that league, topping the 10 team voting along with Dayton.

Senior Danielle Rygelski has picked up right where she left off last season. Coming into the season, she was fifth amongst active NCAA players in kills, and she’s averaging 5.40 kills per set, the third best mark in the country. She’s one of just two Billikens who have attempted more than 100 attacks so far this season.... and the other one, Josie Gandall, is hitting -.007. YEAH. Just throwing it out there: stop passing to her.

Ashley Gagen (4.59 assists/set) and Camilla Rivas (6.33/set) share setting duties for SLU, while Mackenzie Long leads the defense with 3.32 digs per set.

Match #8: at Kentucky (3-3)

When: Friday, September 9, 2016, at 6:30pm
Where: Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, KY
Audio/Visual: ESPN3/WatchESPN will have a video stream, plus there’s live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB & @KentuckyVB

There’s just two all time meetings between the two squads, with each team taking one win apiece. Kentucky swept Marquette in 2000, while MU got the W by way of a sweep in 1999.

Kentucky started out the season ranked #24 in the country, the fifth consecutive season where they’ve made it into the AVCA’s preseason top 25. They’ve stumbled a little bit out of the gate, and as a result, they’re just barely outside the official rankings right now. To be fair, calling it “stumbling” probably isn’t fair. They’ve picked up wins over teams that were #20 and #22 at the time of the match. The problem is that they’ve lost to three unranked teams, although one of those was USC last weekend after the Trojans went from #7 to unranked after starting out the year 0-3. In any case, they’re an obvious NCAA tournament contender as well as a contender in the SEC where they were picked to finish third this year.

UK was represented on the preseason all-SEC team by two players: junior middle hitter Kaz Brown and junior libero Ashley Dusek. Brown was third in the nation in blocks per set last season, but so far this year, she’s averaging under a block per frame. Dusek, on the other hand, is living up to the billing with 4.35 digs/set after averaging just over five per frame as the 2015 SEC Libero of the Year.

The Wildcats have a pair of attackers that are equally dangerous. Leah Edmond leads the team in kills with 3.60/set, while Darian Mack is sitting right at three per frame. Olivia Dailey runs the operation for Kentucky, racking up more than 10 assists per set.

Match #9: vs Virginia (3-3)

When: Saturday, September 10, 2016, at 4pm
Where: Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, KY
Audio/Visual: Only live stats. Nice use of all of that SEC money, guys.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB & @UVAVolleyball

Marquette will be looking for their first ever set victory over the Cavaliers in this match. The two teams have met only once before, a 3-0 UVa victory in 2006 at a tournament hosted by Michigan.

Coming off an 18-13 season where they were 10-10 in ACC play, Virginia was picked to finish eighth in the 15 team conference this season. They’ve kind of been all over the place this season, getting two 3-0 wins in a tournament they hosted, but they also took two 3-0 losses during a trip to Baton Rouge for a tournament that LSU hosted. They did get a five set win over the hosting Tigers, though.

They return just three starters in 2016, but one of them is 2015’s kills leader, Haley Kole. Kole averaged 3.00 kills per set last season and was named to the preseason all-ACC team before the start of the 2016 campaign. She’s right at that 3.00/set mark again so far this season, but she’s struggling to hit it well at just .207.

Freshman Jennifer Wineholt made her collegiate debut three matches ago and has taken over the setting duties for the Cavaliers. She’s averaging 6.91 helpers through 11 sets. UVa does a little bit of defense by committee, with Lexi Riccolo leading all players with just 3.10 digs per set.