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2019 NCAA Volleyball Tournament Second Round Preview: #16 Purdue vs Marquette

The Golden Eagles will have to beat a top 16 seed on their own floor to get to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.

Texas v Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

2019 NCAA Volleyball Tournament

Second Round

#16 Purdue Boilermakers (23-7) vs Marquette Golden Eagles (28-5)

Date: Saturday, December 7, 2019
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Holloway Gymnasium, West Lafayette, Indiana
Streaming: BTN+, and it appears to be free. There also appears to be a smart TV app, if you’re so inclined.
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB
All Time Series: Purdue leads, 2-0
Last Meeting: Purdue won, 3-2 in 2002

The best season in Marquette volleyball history gets one step closer to an extra appellation to that name. While it’s hard to argue with what head coach Ryan Theis has accomplished this season by guiding the Golden Eagles into the top 10 of the AVCA poll for the first time in program history, the fact of the matter is that Friday afternoon’s first round victory over Dayton tied the program record for wins in a season. Quite obviously then, on Saturday evening, Marquette will be aiming for the program’s first ever 29 win season

That’s worthy of notice on its own, but there’s more on the line for Allie Barber and teammates. Sure, Marquette will be trying to put themselves into the Sweet 16 for the second time in program history and for the second consecutive season, but to do that, they’ll have to do something that they’ve never done before. MU has won NCAA tournament matches before, and even won two times a year ago to reach the Sweet 16. However, Marquette did that by hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, and thus beat two unseeded teams in the process.

#16 Purdue will be on the other end of the court from the Golden Eagles on Saturday, and thus give MU a chance to beat a seeded team for the first time in their nine straight NCAA tournament appearances. They currently sit at 0-4 against seeded teams in tournament history, including last year’s defeat against #3 Illinois in the Sweet 16. In fact, Marquette is 0-4 against Big Ten teams, and specifically 0-3 against Illinois with a loss to Minnesota mixed in there, too. Purdue is a Big Ten opponent, of course, so we’ll see if that jinx continues or if the Golden Eagles can get themselves into the win column on try #5.

The Boilermakers come into this match as winners of their last seven matches, including back-to-back home-and-home wins against a ranked Michigan team. The Big Ten doesn’t play a conference tournament, electing to give their teams time to play a 20 match league slate and a strong non-conference schedule as well. That’s why they were able to come in with that winning streak as opposed to having to go through the buzzsaw that a theoretical B1G tournament.

The Purdue offense is one of the more interesting ones that Marquette has seen this season. The Boilermakers have a pair of attackers averaging more than three kills per set. One of them, Grace Cleveland, has appeared in every match this season, while the other, Caitlyn Newton, has missed two. Even with that being the case, Newton still has the team lead in attacks this season and accounts for nearly 30% of the entire offense. Cleveland isn’t far behind her, so the question is whether or not MU can corral both of them. Neither one is particularly accurate, with both hitting under .280. That might just be my experience watching the ultra efficient Allie Barber for too long, of course, but then again, Newton is hitting just .211 this season.

Hayley Bush is your setter here, averaging 10.72 assists this season. Marissa Hornung and Jena Otec anchor the back line, averaging more than three digs per set each, and Bush’s 2+ per frame is pretty impressive for such a prolific setter. Purdue’s blocking schemes are going to be Marquette’s biggest worry, as they have a pair of middles in Shavona Cuttino and Blake Mohler averaging more than 1.2 blocks per set, and then Cleveland jumps in and adds another one per frame to the mix. That’s a potent combination, and definitely helps explain why teams are hitting just .184 against Purdue this season.