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#10 Marquette Volleyball Preview: vs Providence & vs #13 Creighton

TOP 15 SHOWDOWN AT THE MCGUIRE CENTER!

Big East Mens BasketballTournament - Quaterfinal Round
Don’t have to even show a Providence mascot if I don’t want to
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Big time things are happening at the McGuire Center this weekend.

First, your #10 ranked Marquette Golden Eagles will look to extend their lifetime winning streak against Providence, which is neat. In addition to that, they’ll also be looking to remain unbeaten and in first place in the Big East on Friday night.

BUT THEN

ON SATURDAY

We get our first top 15 showdown in McGuire Center history when #13 Creighton comes to the barn. The best we’ve ever done before is a top 20 showdown earlier this year when Marquette was #11 in the country and Baylor, now ranked #1, was merely #17. It’s quite literally the biggest regular season match in McGuire Center history, and that’s without mixing in the details about the Big East regular season title.

Right now, Marquette and Creighton are the only unbeaten teams in the league, with both holding a record of 4-0. No one in the Big East has just one loss, as third place is held down by Villanova and St. John’s at 3-2. Whichever squad emerges from Saturday with a win will be the mid-season favorite to win the regular season championship. While it’s not safe to expect it to happen, both Marquette and Creighton will be favored to win every single one of their remaining league matches not against each other, so there is a certain amount of finality to Saturday night’s encounter.

Win or lose, it’s a big match for Marquette. The Golden Eagles are currently holding on to the #12 RPI in the country. The top 16 teams — not by RPI, but as determined by the selection committee — will host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. MU proved last year that hosting can be an express pass to the Sweet 16, so that’s a crucial goal for the Golden Eagles. The Jays are currently #18 in the RPI, so merely playing them is a bonus here. Winning would be exceptional.

After all, after Creighton, the next best Big East team is Villanova at #60. St. John’s is #90, and Xavier is ever so barely a top 150 RPI team right now at exactly #150. The other five teams in the league are below #165, with both Seton Hall and (unfortunately Friday’s opponent) Providence turning up as sub-250 teams. Nailing down a win against the Jays boosts Marquette in more ways than one, so beyond the history involved in Saturday night’s match, it’s also a critical contest for what happens in December.

Big East Match #5: vs Providence Friars (5-12, 0-4 Big East)

Date: Friday, October 11, 2019
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center
Streaming: GoMarquette.com
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 11-0 all time against Providence. They’ve played twice a year since 2014 when the Friars joined up with the rest of the Big East, and that first 2014 matchup was the first meeting since the first ever encounter in 1999.

Things started out okay for the Friars this year. As of late, that has not been the case. Providence has now lost eight straight matches, dropping from 5-4 on the year to 5-12. They’ve been fighting hard along the way, forcing things to five sets against Brown, Holy Cross, Connecticut, Georgetown, and Seton Hall during the losing streak. The tenaciousness is worth noting, but those still ended up as losses along the way. This will be their first collision with a ranked opponent this season, as they are travel partners with Creighton and won’t face the Jays until later this month.

Providence has had a certain amount of attacking by committee this season. Addison Root is their only attacker above two kills per set that has played in all 17 matches this season, but there are two women averaging more kills than Root. Jennifer Leitman is up at 3.16 per frame, and Emma Nelson has gotten to 2.55 kills per set. Nelson hasn’t played in a Big East match yet this year, while Leitman missed two matches earlier this season.

Setting is a total mess for the Friars, as Allison Barber is averaging just 8.71 assists per set. Brielle Mullally has seen action at setter in PC’s last three matches and averaged 3.33 helpers per set. She only played in one other set this season, so I’m not really sure what was driving down Barber’s averages so much.

Digs come by committee, just like kills for the Friars. Caroline LaMacchia averages 3.09 to lead the team, but there are four more women averaging over two per set. Part of this is merely a jumble in the lineup, as eight different women have started in at least five matches this season. Providence isn’t particularly a strong blocking team, although they average more per set than Marquette does. Lindsey Schaible leads the way with 0.83 per set, and Jenae Alderson gets 0.71 per frame, too.

Big East Match #6: vs #13 Creighton Bluejays (11-3, 4-0 Big East)

Date: Saturday, October 12, 2019
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on Caffeine.tv and the Big East’s YouTube channel
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is just 4-17 all time against the Bluejays. The Golden Eagles have lost five straight matches to Creighton and 12 of the last 13 meetings.

The Jays have won six straight coming into their weekend starter against DePaul on Friday and 11 of the last 12. They started out the year with back-to-back losses to then-#2 Nebraska and then-#20 Baylor. Those squads are now #5 and #1 respectively, so no shame in those losses. Since then, they have knocked off then-#12 Kentucky and then-#15 USC to maintain their spot in the AVCA top 25, with only a home loss to then-#12 Washington darkening the mood since that opening weekend.

In other words, Creighton is primed and ready to give the Golden Eagles what for and show who really is the favorite in the league this season.

Head coach Kirsten Bernal Booth has an assortment of attackers to rely on this season. Five different women are averaging at least two kills per set this season, and no one is above three. Three of the five are hitting better than .250 this season, which provides a unique balance for the Jays. Keeley Davis and Jaela Zimmerman are leading the offense with 416 attacks each this season, so they have to be the focus of MU’s blocking attempts. However, if MU doesn’t mind everyone else, things could get sideways on the Golden Eagles quickly.

With that many attacking options at her disposal, it’s no surprise that Madelyn Cole is leading the Big East in assists this year. Her 10.66 per frame is one of just two averages over 10 helpers this season in the entire league. Cole is usually dishing a pass out after getting it from Brittany Witt. The senior from Omaha averages 5.04 digs per set, which is second best in the Big East this season. Megan Ballenger is the social coordinator for the squad, getting block parties started to the tune of 1.02 blocks per set.

No, I will not apologize for that last sentence.