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#21 Marquette Volleyball Preview: The Marquette Invitational 2: Electric Boogaloo

I’m not kidding, “Marquette Invitational 2” is the official name on the schedule. Can we get some sponsors around here or what?

NCAA Basketball Tournament - East Regional - Wisconsin v Florida
Pantsless freak.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Last week was the Marquette Invitational.

This week is also the Marquette Invitational.

Last week has the designation on the schedule of “1,” while this weekend’s event is “2.”

I have suggestions. IDEA #1: Call one of these events “The Marquette Classic.” IDEA #2: Get a sponsor for these deals. “The Belair Cantina Marquette Invitational” and “The Colectivo Marquette Classic.” Whatever. Something. Thing 1 and Thing 2 isn’t fun.

Anywho, Marquette rolls into a second straight weekend of home matches with a record of 7-2 and an AVCA national ranking of #21. That’s the best national ranking in program history, which is neat. MU also has a gift of facing the #6 team in the country this week, and if the Golden Eagles were to win that match, it’s safe to say that a new highest ranking ever will be coming on Monday.

On the flip side, Allie Barber and crew are going to need to ensure that they go at least 2-1 again this weekend if they want to stay ranked in next week’s poll. There’s nothing wrong with #21 losing to #6, even if it’s a home match. That shouldn’t knock MU out of the poll. However, losses to either of the other two teams coming to Milwaukee will knock them out. It’s especially important to point this out, as MU will play both Tulsa and Illinois State on Saturday. They’ll be favored in both contests, but winning twice in one day is never an easy proposition.

In any case, these three contests will be Marquette’s final tuneups before Big East play begins next weekend. MU gets Creighton in the second match of the league schedule, so it’s going to be important for the Golden Eagles to go firing into conference action with a full head of steam.

Match #10: vs #6 Wisconsin Badgers (5-1)

Date: Friday, September 14, 2018
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center
Ticket Update: The match is SOLD OUT. Sections have been reserved for students, but it will be a limited number of seats. GET. THERE. EARLY.
Video Streaming: GoMarquette.com
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

2-20. Marquette is 2-20 all time against Wisconsin. That is not an error of any kind. The two teams met for the first time since 2008 in Madison in the regular season, where the Badgers won in four sets, and again in last year’s NCAA tournament, where the Badgers won in three sets. Marquette’s last win in the series came in..... wait for it....... October of 1978. Literally 40 years ago. Yipes.

Whatever else you want to say about the Badgers this season, you can absolutely say this much: They are a massive disappointment in the eyes of Marquette fans. Now, given the fact that BYU beat #10 USC and #25 Marquette last weekend, there’s a chance that the Cougars would have leapt to #1 in the country in the AVCA poll no matter what. However, Wisconsin taking their #2 ranking to Waco and clanking a 3-1 loss to #15 Baylor shot the opportunity for the Badgers to be the #1 team in the country right out the window. This is marketing malfeasance of the highest order and, as per usual, the Badgers can not be trusted to do the right thing for the betterment of everyone.

They are the #6 team in the country, though, and their wins against North Carolina, Florida State, and Texas are all pretty good. Sophomores Grace Loberg and Dana Rettke are the two leading attackers, both averaging over 3.1 kills per set this season. They have two more players averaging over two kills, so they’re not reliant on any one player. In fact, it’s Molly Haggerty who leads the team in attacks with 173 on the year. Rettke’s name might ring a bell for you, as anytime you see a woman standing 6’8”, that’s going to get some attention. She was a First Team All-American last year and the AVCA National Freshman of the Year. In addition to her kills, she also averages 1.82 blocks per frame, so Marquette is going to have to fight through her block attempts all match long.

Match #11: vs Tulsa Golden Hurricane (7-2)

Date: Saturday, September 15, 2018
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center
Video Streaming: GoMarquette.com
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

There has been just one meeting between Marquette and Tulsa in the past, and the Golden Hurricane got the W. It was a 3-0 sweep waaaaaaaaaay back in 1997.

Yes, Tulsa has a very shiny 7-2 record thus far this season. They were also picked to finish sixth in the American Athletic Conference this season and their most impressive win is.... I dunno, Bowling Green? Maybe Belmont because that one was on the road? Their losses are to then-#23 Purdue and an East Tennessee State team that’s actually 9-2 but not earning any national attention.

Emily Thorson and Taylor Horsfall represented the Golden Hurricane on the all-AAC preseason team, which is neat. Thorson is leading the team in kills at 3.59/set, but she’s hitting just .211. Somehow I feel that Jenna Rosenthal and Elizabeth Orf are going to eat her lunch. Horsfall is the libero, and she averages 5.50 digs per set, which is a very strong performance and best in the AAC.

Match #12: vs Illinois State Redbirds (7-2)

Date: Saturday, September 15, 2018
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center
Video Streaming: GoMarquette.com
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette and Illinois State have split their two previous meetings. ISU won the most recent encounter thanks to a rally from down 0-2 in the 2014 NCAA tournament, while the Golden Eagles got the win in 2013 after the Redbirds rallied from down 0-2 to force a fifth set. I’m sensing a theme, and I don’t like it.

Illinois State has the same record as Tulsa, but I feel like they have some better wins. Winning at Butler is a quality performance, and they beat Auburn in a match held in the event that Butler hosted. Their losses came against Georgia and a ranked Washington State team, and it’ll be a cold day in hell before I find fault in losing to a ranked foe, especially on the road as was the case here.

In another fun and slightly weird connection to Tulsa, Courtney Pence, ISU’s libero, is their only representative on the Missouri Valley’s preseason all-conference team. She’s averaging 5.61 digs per set, which is pretty great. Illinois State’s offense is interesting, as they’re averaging 13.97 kills per set as a team and hitting .260. However, Lexi Varga is leading the team with 2.53 kills. That sounds not impressive, but Ali Line and Ella Francis are averaging 2.52 kills/set. There’s three more attackers averaging more than two kills per set, but it must be noted that Varga and Kaylee Martin have only played in 19 and 20 of ISU’s 31 sets respectively. With that being the case, it’s possible that their spread out averages are more the result of having to paper over those absences than anything else.