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2019 NCAA Volleyball Tournament Preview: Marquette vs Dayton

The Golden Eagles head to West Lafayette to start off their ninth straight NCAA tournament appearance.

Mississippi State v Dayton Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

2019 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament

First Round

Marquette Golden Eagles (27-5) vs Dayton Flyers (22-8)

Date: Friday, December 6, 2019
Time: 3:30pm Central
Location: Holloway Gymnasium, West Lafayette, Indiana
Streaming: BTN+, but it says it will be free if you click the link
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB
All-Time Series: Dayton leads, 20-7
Last Meeting: Marquette won, 3-0, in August 2015

For the ninth consecutive season overall and sixth consecutive season under head coach Ryan Theis, Marquette finds themselves in the NCAA tournament. Perhaps for the first time in the nine year run, it somehow actually feels like a slight disappoint for the Golden Eagles to only be in the national championship field. Marquette spent the entire season ranked in the AVCA top 25 and most of it in the top 10 of the poll. They started off the season with road wins over BYU and Wisconsin, both of whom ended up earning top 16 national seeds in the tournament and will be hosting the first two rounds on their campuses.

Marquette did that last year, launching themselves into the top 16 at #12. They parlayed that home court advantage into the program’s first ever Sweet 16 appearance. This year, even with those early season wins in their back pocket, the Golden Eagles find themselves going out on the road for the first round. Is it only because of their Big East championship loss to St. John’s? Is it because KJ Lines, a key part of those early season wins, will not be available for the NCAA tournament due to injury? Is it because the Big East in general is an anchor on Marquette’s RPI, even when the Golden Eagles are ranked #13 in that system on Selection Sunday? In any case, Allie Barber et. al. can use whatever slight it was that sent them away from Milwaukee for motivation.

Standing on the other side of the court on Friday afternoon in Indiana will be Dayton, the conference tournament champion out of the Atlantic 10. The Flyers come in with wins in six of their last seven matches, with the only loss coming against A-10 regular season champion VCU. Dayton ultimately got revenge for that home loss by beating the Rams, 3-1, in the title game of the Atlantic 10 conference tournament back on November 24th, and they have not played since. This is Dayton’s 14th appearance in the NCAA tournament with all of them coming since 2003.

Dayton’s offense is led by Jamie Peterson, and perhaps “led” is not the correct word. The 6’4” redshirt sophomore has accounted for over 35% of Dayton’s attacks this year and has more than twice as many as anyone else on the roster. She’s averaging 4.60 kills per set this season, which ranks 17th in the country, two spots behind Allie Barber. Part of the dominance of Peterson within the context of Dayton’s offense is by demand. Peterson is one of three women to play in all 111 sets this season and one of just five women to play in over 100 sets this year. UD’s next best attacker is Alli Papesh, who has only seen action in 96 sets. When you aren’t getting the same players on the court together, then the offense starts getting spread around to a lot of places as well as solidified in a dominant player like Peterson.

You won’t be surprised to find out that Dayton’s setting leads a lot to be desired in terms of regularity. Josie Vondran, Bridget Doherty, and Brooke Westbeld all average more than four assists per set, but none are over five. Doherty has played in 107 sets this season, while Vondran and Westbeld are down in the 60s. It was Vondran (27 assists) and Doherty (16 assists) running the show against VCU in the A-10 title game, so I’d expect to see the same pairing again on Friday.

Maura Collins and Elizabeth House are the two other women who have been on the court in every set for the Flyers, and they both play defensive specialist. Collins is averaging a team high 4.36 digs per frame, so I’m going to presume that she’s the one that ends up in the libero role. House is only at 1.84 per set, so that sounds like she’s not playing full time. Given that the Flyers are swapping setters, perhaps House figures in that rotation, too.

In terms of net presences, MU will have to watch out for Olivia Dubay and Amelia Moore. Both women are averaging over a block per set, and while they haven’t been playing in every set, they were both active against VCU in Dayton’s last contest. At times this season, Marquette has seemed to struggle with blocking schemes in one fashion or another, so it’s possible that the 6’4” Dubay and the 6’5” Moore may cause those problems to pop back up again.

The winner of Friday’s match will advance to the second round where they will play either Wright State or #16 Purdue, which is, of course, the host for the proceedings this weekend. No matter who the opponent is, the match will take place at 6pm Central time at Holloway Gymnasium, and it will be streamed on BTN+ as well.