On Wednesday, the Big East announced the preseason women’s volleyball awards, and two Marquette players were included on the all-conference team. Redshirt junior middle hitter Jenna Rosenthal is one of seven unanimous choices for the squad, and she is joined on the team by sophomore outside hitter Allie Barber.
As a team, the Golden Eagles were picked to finish third in the Big East by a vote of the league’s coaches. Marquette picked up 62 points in the balloting, including the first place vote of Creighton’s Kirsten Bernal Booth, as coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team. Butler was second with 66 points, and the defending champion Bluejays were a unanimous choice to repeat with the other nine first place votes.
Rosenthal and Barber were both All-Big East First Team honorees following the 2016 season. Rosenthal was Marquette’s second most productive offensive weapon with 2.30 kills per set last season. She was also the second most accurate attacker in the conference, connecting at a .363 clip, and her Marquette-best 1.22 blocks per set was also second in the Big East. Barber was a surprise honoree last year, both on the First Team and as co-Freshman of the Year. Barber averaged 2.20 kills per set in Big East matches and was putting kills on the floor on the regular, hitting .318 in conference play.
As the league favorite, it’s not a surprise to see four Bluejays on the preseason all-conference team. It’s also not a surprise to see senior setter Lydia Dimke as the preseason Player of the Year. She picked up the postseason version of that award in 2016, so it’s only fair that she be installed as the preseason award winner now. With seven unanimous choices for the all-conference team, Dimke will clearly face some challenges for that crown when November comes calling, most likely from Jaali Winters, her own teammate.
Here’s the full all-conference team list:
Anna Logan, Butler, Jr., OH ^
Lydia Dimke, Creighton, Sr., S ^
Taryn Kloth, Creighton, Jr., OH ^
Jaali Winters, Creighton, Jr., OH ^
Brittany Witt, Creighton, So., DS
Brittany Maxwell, DePaul, Jr., RS ^
Symone Speech, Georgetown, Jr., MB
Allie Barber, Marquette, So., OH
Jenna Rosenthal, Marquette, RS-Jr., MH ^
Erica Di Maulo, St. John’s, So., S ^
Allie Loitz, Villanova, Sr., OH
Kristen Massa, Xavier, Sr., OH
And here’s the full rundown on the preseason team poll:
1. Creighton 81 pts.
2. Butler 66
3. Marquette 62
4. Xavier 51
5. Villanova 46
6. St. John’s 43
7. DePaul 36
8. Seton Hall 35
9. Georgetown 21
10. Providence 9
I think it’s safe to say that the league’s coaches don’t know what to make of the Big East outside of Creighton. If Butler had gotten all nine second place votes, they’d have 72 points. They missed that by a fairly significant margin. Moreover, when you take away the nine points from Booth’s first place vote, Marquette has just 53 points. If the other 8 votes all went to second place for the Golden Eagles would mean 64 points, so they obviously fell well short of that mark.
While I would still mark Ryan Theis’ team as the second best in the Big East, there are reasons to question Marquette’s ability to qualify for a seventh straight NCAA tournament. They have lost leading attacker Taylor Louis to transfer, and Meghan Niemann, the program’s all time leader in blocks, finished up her eligibility last season. MU returns just six players from 2016 and Theis will have to weave not four, not five, not six, but nine new players into his lineup this year. Seven of the nine newcomers are freshmen, and while Marquette is regarded as having a top 25 recruiting class for the second straight season, expecting the freshmen to carry heavy loads is not a great plan.