So far, so good in Big East play for Marquette volleyball. The #10 ranked Golden Eagles made relatively quick work of Butler and Seton Hall in their first two matches, and then overcame some rocky patches to beat St. John’s in four sets to move to 3-0. The first set loss to St. John’s snapped a streak of 21 straight sets won by Marquette in Big East play and ended a run of six straight regular season conference matches that ended in 3-0 MU sweeps.
Marquette has now won 17 of their last 18 regular season Big East matches, and that includes the last nine in a row. That’s pretty darn good, and curse those lousy Bluejays for getting in Marquette’s way like that.
I would expect Marquette to come out pretty focused for their first conference road trip of the 2019 season. First, MU hasn’t played since Saturday when they knocked off the Johnnies. Second, after Wednesday’s match in Cincinnati, the Golden Eagles won’t play against until October 11th when they welcome Providence to the McGuire Center. That’s a pretty long layoff for Marquette, and I presume that Basketball Midnight Madness events across the league are the reason why MU isn’t playing at all this weekend.
Still, the point is that it will be Marquette’s only match for nearly two weeks. While the Golden Eagles need to dial in the focus all season long if their goal is a regular season title, they can devote full attention and energy to this one, knowing that they’ll have a long stretch off before they have to dial in again.
Wednesday’s match also has the potential for the coaches to mentally prepare the team for Creighton. While the next match after Xavier is Providence, that means that the nationally ranked Bluejays will be coming in right behind the Friars as their travel partner. It might be a week and a half away, but the first showdown of the year with the Jays isn’t that far off in terms of match order, and Marquette’s path to a regular season title goes through Creighton, one way or another.
Big East Match #4: at Xavier Musketeers (4-7, 1-0 Big East)
Marquette’s record book says that they’re 14-9 all time against Xavier. It’s 12-7 since Marquette joined Division 1, but the Golden Eagles have won four straight matches and 12 straight sets in the series.
No one is going to be impressed with Xavier’s 4-7 record thus far this season. Their three wins in non-conference play were Utah State, Eastern Michigan, and William & Mary, and that’s largely indicative of how their schedule went. They do have a loss to then-#22 Louisville in there by way of an event hosted by Lipscomb of all places. They also lost to Lipscomb in four sets, so there’s that.
However, regardless of how the non-con went for them, Xavier beat DePaul in their Big East opener, and then they took the weekend off. That leaves the Musketeers at 1-0 in conference matches, and it leaves them as one of just three teams that are still undefeated in Big East play. The other two are Marquette, as you’re aware, and Creighton, MU’s only real rival for conference supremacy.
Suffice to say that Xavier is a tiny bit of an outlier here.
That’s good news for Marquette, in a certain kind of way. This match gives the Golden Eagles a chance to strike down a team from the unbeaten ranks, just like they did to Seton Hall and St. John’s over the weekend. When you’re one of the unbeaten and you’re pushing people off the top of the hill, it’s never a bad thing for your shot at the regular season conference title.
Lauren Hanlon leads a trio of XU attackers averaging more than two kills per set. The redshirt freshman tops the chart with 2.83 kills per frame, and she’s hitting a pretty solid .271 on the year. We’ll see who actually gets the focus of the offense, as junior Moriah Hopkins and sophomore Norah Painter, the other two over two kills per set, both have more attacks on the year than Hanlon. All three are nestled between 270 and 300, so it’s a pretty tight race. Hopkins and Painter are also both hitting for a lower average than Hanlon, so it would possibly be in Xavier’s best interest to start tilting the table towards Hanlon.
Freshman Carrigan O’Reilly and junior Division 2 transfer Alisa Watson split the setting duties. At least in terms of per set average, they’re splitting it right down the middle with O’Reilly at 5.41 assists and Watson at 5.40. Watson has played in one extra set over O’Reilly this season, but other than that, they’re pretty much the same.
On defense, Alyssa Overbeck is anchoring things. The freshman playing collegiate volleyball in her home town is averaging 4.05 digs to lead the team, but there are two more Musketeers up over three per set. Jayda Carlton is the blocking specialist, with the 5’11” sophomore putting up 1.19 blocks per set. That’s the best mark in the Big East this season, so the Golden Eagles will need to be wary of her.
Perhaps the most interesting part about Xavier is how everything is spread out statistically. The top three hitters don’t overlap with the setters, who don’t overlap with the top three in digs, who don’t overlap with the two most notable blockers. It’s different names at the top of the stat sheet all over the place, which seems very odd. But maybe it’s not!