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Marquette Volleyball Preview: The Hampton Inn Invitational

The Golden Eagles head out to Indiana with an eye on moving above .500 and upwards in the top 25.

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The Marquette Golden Eagles came back from Hawaii this past weekend with a record of 1-2. At a first glance of the schedule, many fans believed starting off the season 0-3 was definitely a possibility, but not Ryan Theis and company. The Golden Eagles upset the then ranked #20 Hawaii Rainbow Wahine in a five set thriller last Friday. Allie Barber led the attack with 22 kills while Hope Werch added 12 of her own in her Marquette debut. Lauren Speckman was fantastic in debut as Marquette’s primary setter as she recorded a whopping 50 assists. The Golden Eagles dropped their next two games against #13 UCLA and #22 San Diego. UCLA is now ranked #11 in the AVCA polls while San Diego ascended to #17. Marquette received 11 points in the ranking and stand at an unofficial #36 in the country.

The Golden Eagles now travel down to Indianapolis to the Hampton Inn Invitational hosted by IUPUI. They will take on Miami of Ohio in the first match of three on Friday night. The Redhawks stand at 3-1 while coming off a victory against Marquette’s rival Xavier.

Match #4: vs Miami-Ohio Redhawks (3-1)

Date: Friday, September 1st, 2017
Time: 3:30 CT
Location: “The Jungle” in Indianapolis, IN
Streaming: Nope, IUPUI hates you.
Live Stats: Sidearm
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Who loves battles between middle hitters? Oh that’s right, EVERYONE. The battle between Marquette’s star, Jenna Rosenthal, and Miami’s, Margaret Payne, should be an interesting one as Rosenthal comes off a decent trip to Hawaii recording 10 kills and 8 blocks against Hawaii and 8 kills and 6 blocks against UCLA. Payne comes off a solid match against Xavier recording 12 kills and 4 blocks.

Miami also features a solid outside in Stela Kukoc who had 11 kills against Xavier. It should be fun to watch her lineup across from Allie Barber who hopefully will be in the starting lineup for the Golden Eagles after dominating the attack for MU in Hawaii. The Redhawks also feature two All-MAC Preseason players in senior libero Maeve Mcdonald and senior outside Kate Tomisic.

Look for Ryan Theis to make liberal use of his bench, particularly with Preseason All-Big East selection Allie Barber came off the bench in Hawaii. When I saw Barber was not in the starting lineup, I thought it was a mistake, but I guess Theis had a different idea/strategy. Barber has led the Golden Eagles in kills in all three games so far.

The Golden Eagles should win this game. Upsets do happen but I think Ryan Theis’ squad has this one. I predict Marquette to to come out firing in Indianapolis and sweep the Redhawks.

Match #5: vs Wichita State Shockers (3-0)

Date: Saturday, September 2nd, 2017
Time: 9 am CT (Nothing better than waking up to some college volleyball followed by the first Saturday of college football)
Location: “The Jungle” IUPUI Gymnasium Indianapolis, IN
Streaming: Nope, IUPUI hates you.
Live Stats: Sidearm
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

The Shockers of Wichita are off to red hot start as they have beat Lipscomb, East Tennessee St and Belmont, all 3 sets to none. In the latest AVCA poll, the Shockers received 36 points making them the unofficial #26 team in the nation. Wichita State will come in to this tournament hungry to show people who they really are and why they deserve to be a top 25 team.

I think this tournament just loves battles between solid middles because that’s just what we have here again. You already know about Jenna Rosenthal, Marquette’s golden girl. Her opposition partner in this one is WSU’s Abbie Lehman. She stands at 6-3 so Rosenthal has a pretty significant height advantage to start off with. Earning Preseason All-AAC honors, Lehman has 27 kills on the season which comes out to 3 kills per set.

Also earning Preseason All-AAC honors is setter Emily Hiebert who is assisting literally everything. She recorded 32 assists in both of the first two matches and had a solid 26 assists against Belmont. Hiebert has been nothing but amazing in her first three years of campus. In her sophomore year, she recorded 1408 assists which is pretty unreal.

I think this match will be a very close one, but with my unbiased (Editor’s Note: *coughcoughcoughcough*) prediction I believe Marquette will win this match in five sets. I think it will be a close match, but the Golden Eagles will prevail in five.

Match #6: vs IUPUI Jaguars (2-2)

Date: Saturday, September 2nd, 2017
Time: 6 pm CT
Location: “The Jungle” IUPUI home gymnasium
Streaming: Nope, IUPUI hates you.
Live Stats: Sidearm
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB (FOLLOW THE TWITTER PEOPLE. WHAT KIND OF FANS ARE YOU IF YOU DON’T FOLLOW THE TWITTER)

The Jaguars of IUPUI are off to a decent start going 2-2 in their first four matches. I understand our Golden Eagles record is 1-2 but those losses were against top tier teams. IUPUI started off 2-0 with victories over Georgia Southern and Florida International, but then fell to Florida Gulf Coast and Fort Wayne.

There won’t be a fun middle blocker battle here as IUPUI’s middle has not produced much this season. Hey, who doesn’t love an occasional outside hitter battle every once in awhile. IUPUI’s outside, Kori Wealbroeck, has been the primary offense so far this season. Recording 22 and 19 kills in her first two games this season, Waelbroeck has been great for the Jags. Waelbroeck earned preseason Player To Watch honors for the Horizon League this season. Opposite her should be Allie Barber who has been sensational for the Golden Eagles this season in her questionable bench role. Ryan Theis is a very smart coach so I’m sure he has a strategy behind bring Barber off the bench.

The star of IUPUI’s team is their setter/defensive specialist, Maggie Gibson. The junior from South Bend has been outstanding so far recording 47 and 51 assists in the first two games followed by solid performances in the latest games with 28 and 20 assists. Gibson will set primary to Waelbroeck, but look for her to set middle at some points. Most teams want to stay out of the middle against Marquette due to block machine, Jenna Rosenthal being in the way.

The Golden Eagles should win this match pretty easily. I predict 3-0 victory. Marquette is simply better in every category of play, it is pretty simple.

This tournament is very good way for Marquette to boost the record for the season. I say they go 3-0 overall, but going 2-1 with a loss to Wichita State is realistic as well. If/when the Golden Eagles beat the Shox, the win will have a legitimate shot at boosting MU into the top 25 next week.