ITEM THE FIRST: For the first time in program history, Marquette is YOUR favorite to win the Big East this season, earning six of the possible nine first place votes (head coach Ryan Theis can’t vote for his team or players) on their way to edging Creighton, 78 points to 76.
ITEM THE SECOND: Junior outside hitter Allie Barber is YOUR preseason Big East Player of the Year and is a unanimous choice for the preseason All-Big East team.
ITEM THE THIRD: Redshirt senior middle blocker Jenna Rosenthal and sophomore outside hitter Hope Werch join Barber on the all-conference team, with Rosenthal joining Barber as one of the seven unanimous choices for the squad.
ITEM THE FOURTH: Junior setter Lauren Speckman got completely hosed on the all-league team voting and was not included on the 13 player team.
Okay, so maybe only three of those things are positive news, but all four are important.
Here’s the full rundown on the team voting:
1. Marquette (6) 78 pts.
2. Creighton (4) 76
3. Butler 60
4. Villanova 57
5. Seton Hall 52
T6. St. John’s 33
T6. Xavier 33
8. Georgetown 24
9. Providence 23
10. DePaul 14
As you can see, there’s a clear division in the league. With Marquette and Creighton splitting the first place votes, the drop from the top two to Butler in third is understandable, and the next two are right up next to the Bulldogs. There’s a drop of 19 points from fifth to sixth, which is a pretty significant drop. I have long argued that the divide in the league is in fact between Marquette and Creighton and everyone else, as it seems the Jays and the Eagles are the only two programs actually trying to reach the NCAA tournament on a year to year basis. At least for this year, the coaches give Butler, Villanova, and Seton Hall a chance to contend for a spot in the four-team Big East tournament.
As for Barber, I’m somewhat shocked that she’s not a unanimous choice for preseason POY. She’s the reigning and defending Player of the Year at the end of the 2017 season where she led the league in kills and points (the only one averaging over five points per set) while finishing the season ranked eighth in the league in hitting percentage at .328. It’s worth noting that no one in the seven spots in front of her came within 300 attacks of Barber, so she gets bonus points for her ruthless efficiency with so much of the offense depending on her.
Rosenthal’s spot on the all-league team is well deserved after averaging 2.55 kills and averaging more than a block per set. MU’s very own 6’6” cheat code ranked fifth in the league in blocks and fifth in the league in hitting percentage. Werch was 2017’s Freshman of the Year, so it’s no surprise to see her make her way onto the all-league team to kick off 2018. It’s not that the Neenah native was a dominating figure on the court, finishing fourth on the team in kills per set at 2.18 and hitting just .220. However, she was a major player on the defensive end for the Golden Eagles, recording 2.75 digs per set. It’s her ability to be a six-rotation player that drives Marquette’s overall offensive efficiency and helps free up Barber to hammer home kills.
That brings us to Speckman. The San Jose native took over the setting responsibilities for Marquette last season as a sophomore, and all she did was lead the league in assists by nearly a full helper per set. Her 11.61 assists per set ranked 12th nationally, but apparently none of that matters to the league’s coaches. To explain my point, here’s the full 13 woman all-conference team.
Bri Lilly, Butler, Sr., MB ^
Taryn Kloth, Creighton, Sr., OH ^
Jaali Winters, Creighton, Sr., OH ^
Brittany Witt, Creighton, Jr., L
Brittany Maxwell, DePaul, Sr., RS
Symone Speech, Georgetown, Sr., MB ^
Allie Barber, Marquette, Jr. OH ^
Jenna Rosenthal, Marquette, R-Sr., MB ^
Hope Werch, Marquette, So., OH
Addison Root, Providence, Jr., OH
Erica DiMaulo, St. John’s, Jr., S ^
Abby Thelen, Seton Hall, Sr., OH
Amanda Pedersen-Henry, Villanova, Sr., MB
The carrots mark the seven women who were unanimous choices to this squad. Do you see what I see? Yep, that’s right. One setter out of 13 players, and that setter, Erica DiMaulo from St. John’s, was a unanimous choice for the list. Erica DiMaulo, who averaged 10.52 assists, more than a full assist fewer than Speckman. She did this for St. John’s, a team that finished last season with a record of 7-11 in league play and 15-18 overall. A St. John’s team that the same people who all voted for DiMaulo all have finishing in the bottom half of the conference in 2018. That’s the supposed obvious best setter in the league? Fuggedahbouddit.
Marquette kicks off the 2018 campaign at the Baylor Invitational on August 24th and 25th. Their first match will be in the afternoon of the 24th against Texas State, with matches against LSU and Baylor the following day.
For the full Big East press release on the preseason honors, click here.