The Big East is a tricksy conference sometimes.
The past few years, they’ve decided to run out the women’s volleyball preseason awards before the soccer awards. Why is that? I’m not sure, especially since volleyball starts their season after women’s soccer and at the same time as men’s soccer. The going theory is related to when league play actually begins, and in the past, because of volleyball’s 18 game league schedule, they have actually started before either soccer slate. That’s not the case this year, with Marquette‘s women’s soccer team playing Villanova on September 15th, but volleyball doesn’t play a Big East squad until the 21st.
Still, though, we’re going to give you our preseason prognostications on the best players in the conference for volleyball before the two soccer rundowns. Why? Safety’s sake, of course.
Preseason Player of the Year: Allie Barber, Marquette
As always, the most important thing to do with these preseason predictions is to not overthink them. Barber was the 2017 postseason Player of the Year, and since she’s returning for her junior (!) season in 2018, she’s the preseason POY. Barber led the league in kills per set both overall (4.71) and in conference play only (4.94) in 2017, and she did it while hitting over .320 no matter which way you want to measure it. Bada bing, bada boom, and we’re out of here.
Preseason All Big East Team
BREAKING NEWS: Creighton and Marquette have many good players on their rosters.
Barber was obvious here. Logan and Winters are gimmes, as they return for their senior seasons after being unanimous choices to the All-Big East team at the end of last season. Witt is just a junior this year after winning Libero of the Year last year, and I refuse to ignore the contributions of liberos to the game. Same thing goes for setters, and with Lydia Dimke and Makayla Ferguson finishing their eligibility last year, we had to go in a new direction. Yes, St. John’s Erica DiMaulo was on the All-Big East team last season, BUUUUUUUUUUUT Speckman averaged nearly a full assist more than anyone else in the league in 2017 in all matches (11.61) and her average in league play (11.57) was almost identical. That’s a remarkable level of consistency that was ignored by the league’s coaches last year for some reason. Rosenthal is my final addition to the six, and there were a lot of options out of the returning players on the All-Big East First Team last year. However, the coaches love putting Rosenthal on these all-league squads and let’s be honest: She is a walking talking cheat code as well. Thus, she gets my nod as I try to predict how the coaches vote.
Top Five Teams
We’ll get to my top two picks in a minute, but I want to touch on the 3-5 spots first. This is a total crap shoot. I was pretty confident about Butler in the #3 spot, but it turns out Whitney Beck isn’t returning for her redshirt senior season. I can’t really justify putting anyone else over the Bulldogs with Bri Lilly and Anna Logan running around out there, so there they are. I’m just wildly guessing on Seton Hall and Villanova, but the Pirates didn’t lose anyone notable from last year’s roster in terms of Big East weekly honorees and the Wildcats lost Allison Fitzgerald and Allie Loitz. I don’t have a lot of faith in the rest of the league in terms of popping into the top half of the standings, so there we are.
That brings us to the top two teams, and well, yeah, I’m picking Marquette to dethrone Creighton this season. It’s a matter of roster churn. Marquette returns everyone from last year except for Manon Geoffroy, and they were only one game behind Creighton in the standings last season. Creighton, on the other hand, loses setter Lydia Dimke and middle blocker Marysa Wilkinson after they made the all-Big East First Team as seniors. Can head coach Kirsten Bernal Booth easily shift someone up in the lineup to take their place? I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but MU has their rotations and camaraderie in place while the Jays are going to have to work out a few kinks here and there. It’s a small advantage, but for me, here in the comfort of July, that’s enough.
With that out of the way, I’m going to turn things over to our man Broadway Brown, who handled volleyball previews and recaps last season. He’s got a thought or two about a thought or two when it comes to Big East volleyball.
Preseason Player of The Year: Allie Barber, OH, Marquette
As Drake would say, “ yea, we going back to back,” that has to be going around in junior Allie Barber’s mind. As a sophomore Barber contributed 546 kills which averages out to be 4.71 kills per set. Barber was contributing pretty much 5 kills per set which is about one fifth of all the points in a set. Barber had one of the best setters in the country, shoutout Lauren Speckman, who continuously fed Barber the ball while the defense was worried about Jenna Rosenthal. Do I think more people know about Allie Barber now? Of course. I think defenses now have to game plan around Marquette’s big three in Barber, Rosenthal and Hope Werch. So who knows maybe if defenses focus more on Barber it will open doors for other hitters on the team. Barring any injury, I am feeling pretty confident with this pick and I believe the only other contender for this award will be Creighton senior Jaali Winters.
All Big East Team
Allie Barber, OH, Marquette
Jaali Winters, OH, Creighton
Brittney Witt, Libero, Creighton
Lauren Speckman, Setter, Marquette
Anna Logan, OH, Butler
Meredith Klare, Libero, Xavier
Top Five Teams