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#25 Volleyball Preview: The Marquette Invitational

I don’t know the name for this tournament, but what I do know is that there is two top 10 teams coming to the Al this weekend

USC v Arizona
Which is worse: USC’s mascot’s super toothy grin, or the Providence Friar’s empty maw?
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Marquette volleyball team has finally cracked the top 25 after receiving votes for the past three weeks. The team absolutely dominated in St. Louis winning all three matches 3-0. In fact, they’ve won 3-0 in all five victories this season. Now they finally come home to play two top 10 teams. If LeBron James saw this weekend’s schedule, he would probably put it on his Instagram story with the caption being SHEEEEEEEESH with a couple fire emojis. Three teams total, two of them being in the top 10, one is even in the top 5 and the third team is Syracuse, an old Big East rival. This is going to be a tough weekend for the Golden Eagles, but if they can pull off even just one upset it would be HUGE for the rankings.

One minor bookkeeping note before anything else: The three teams that MU brought to Milwaukee for this weekend’s event will all play each other at some point. That gives you three chances to see the #10 team in the country and three chances to see the #3 team in the country. Here’s the schedule for the non-Marquette matches:

Friday, 10am: #3 BYU vs #10 USC
Friday, 5pm: #3 BYU vs Syracuse
Saturday, 2pm: #10 USC vs Syracuse

Let’s.

Get.

Previewing.

Match #7: vs #10 USC Trojans (5-1)

Date: Friday, September 7, 2018
Time: 6 PM CT
Location: Al McGuire Center
Special Promotion: The first 100 students in attendance get FREE PIZZA. Can’t beat free.
Video Streaming: GoMarquette.com
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

The Trojans come into Milwaukee with a record of 5-1. They will be either 6-1 or 5-2 by the time they play the Golden Eagles at 6, as they face off against #3 BYU at 10 AM Friday morning. I highly suggest getting to this match because 1) I will be there and I don’t wanna be there alone and 2) it is two top 10 teams squaring off in Milwaukee, we don’t get that often. Enough about BYU vs USC, let’s talk about Marquette vs USC.

Brooke Botkin is leading the Women of Troy in kills per set, averaging 4.43 kills per set, which is only one one-hundredth of a point better than Marquette superstar Allie Barber. On the opposite side of Botkin is Khalia Lanier who is averaging 3.91 kills per set. Coach Ryan Theis is going to have to scheme around those two and set up blocking patterns to try and defend both Botkin and Lanier.

Raquel Lazaro will be setting for USC as she is averaging an impressive 11.35 assists per set. It is pretty easy to be averaging 11.35 when you have the ability to spread the ball around the court, knowing Botkin and Lanier will be there to slam the ball home.

Don’t call me crazy, but I think the Golden Eagles have a chance to win this match. USC already dropped a match this season to UCF who is now receiving votes. While they have beaten three top 25 teams already, I think Ryan Theis can craft a defensive plan for Botkin and Lanier strong enough to secure a Golden Eagle victory. I am saying Marquette in a close five sets.

Match #8: vs #3 BYU Cougars (5-0)

Date: Saturday, September 8, 2018
Time: 6 PM CT
Location: Al McGuire Center
Special Promotion: The first 250 students in attendance get a MU fanny pack.
Video Streaming: GoMarquette.com
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

The BYU Cougars come into Milwaukee smoking hot. They have a chance to defeat the #10 team in the country on Friday and then get to play Syracuse later in the day. On Saturday, the Cougars lone match is against our beloved Golden Eagles, who are, of course, ranked #25. Just last week, the Cougars took down #1 Stanford in Provo, so there’s a chance that BYU comes out of this weekend as the #1 team in the country.

Roni Jones-Perry leads the Cougars in kills per set, averaging 3.75 kills per set. She was just honored by the AVCA as Player of the Week. On the opposite side of Jones-Perry is McKenna Miller who is averaging 3.44 kills per set. Both Jones-Perry and Miller are threats and can both hammer the ball, so the Golden Eagles will need to be prepared and on their toes when both are on the front line.

Setting for the Cougars is Lyndie Haddock-Eppich who is averaging 10.61 assists per set. Like Raquel Lazaro from USC, it is pretty easy to get those assist numbers up when you have two outstanding hitters you can dish it to. Look no further than Marquette averaging 14.5 assists as a team thus far for proof. Haddock-Eppich having Jones-Perry and Miller to pass to is huge for her because she knows wherever she goes with the ball it’s coming down and it’s coming down hard. Just put it up in the air clean and let your hitters go after it.

BYU is absolutely rolling right now and I don’t really see anybody stopping them for now. They’re coming off beating the number one team in the country with the chance to beat the #10 team and the #25 team, so they probably the most confident team in the country now. I don’t see this one going Marquette’s way, so I’m gonna say BYU takes this one 3-0.

Match #9: vs Syracuse Orange (2-0)

Date: Sunday, September 9, 2018
Time: 12 PM CT
Location: Al McGuire Center
Video Streaming: GoMarquette.com
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Syracuse has not played much volleyball yet this season, having sat out the first weekend of the season and only played two games last weekend against University of New Hampshire and UConn. They took UConn to five sets after sweeping UNH. I have a feeling the Orange are in for a rough weekend having to face three top 25 teams this weekend.

Polina Shemanova leads the team in kills per set through two games, averaging 4.38 kills per set. Shemanova is not getting much help from her teammates as the next best kills per set percentage comes from Ella Saada who is averaging 2.57.

Setting for the Orange is Jalissa Trotter and Elena Karakasi. Trotter is averaging 9.17 assists per set while Karakasi is averaging 6.33 assists per set. It seems as if the Orange don’t have a permanent setter and it’s just those two to see who can get to the ball first. Either way, 15.5 is a hellacious amount of assists, so they’re doing pretty good there.

This should be a pretty easy match for the Golden Eagles as Syracuse does not seem to be very good. At the very least, they’re the team that Marquette absolutely has to beat this weekend, so regardless of what happens on Friday and Saturday, MU needs to come in focused for this one. I say 3-0 Golden Eagles in a quick match. It will be the first Sunday of the NFL season (I know our fearless editor Brewtown Andy could not care less [Editor’s Note: It’s true!]), but I expect a pretty large crowd for all three matches and I am super excited for BYU vs USC.