Well, the Big East got me again.
On Thursday, the league office released the preseason awards for the 2019 women’s volleyball season. Sitting on the AE editorial dashboard was the volleyball predictions article, waiting to be published on Friday morning. This is what happens when I figure that the awards would be later than last year since the season is starting later than last year.
THE GOOD NEWS IS that YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles are the preseason favorites in the Big East this season. The bonus news is that three Golden Eagles are on the preseason all-conference team, led by Allie Barber, who has been named Preseason Player Of The Year.
#BIGEASTvb Preseason Player of the Year @MarquetteVB's Allie Barber!— BIG EAST Conference (@BIGEAST) August 1, 2019
➡️3x All-BIG EAST First Team Honoree
➡️2017 BIG EAST Player of the Year
➡️2018 AVCA Second Team All-American pic.twitter.com/0j0CJ6nvsp
Marquette picked up eight of the possible nine first place votes, as coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team or players. With 80 total possible points, that means that the Golden Eagles were tabbed in second place behind Creighton on the ninth ballot. The Bluejays landed in second place with 73 points, earning that other first place vote as well as what clearly was the vote of Marquette head coach Ryan Theis.
The wild part about this? Someone voted Creighton in third.
There’s nine ballots listing Creighton, as CU head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth can’t vote for her team. Two 1st place votes at nine points each = 18 points. Seven 2nd place votes at eight points each = 56 points. 18 + 56 = 74, and the Jays only snagged 73 points in the balloting. Look, in the predictions post that will now never run, I picked Marquette over Creighton, but by the slightest of margins. Slotting the Jays in third, behind literally anyone else in this conference (presumably third place St. John’s in this case) that has repeatedly shown that they have barely any interest in trying to compete on a nationally legitimate level? No. That’s insanity.
Back to the Golden Eagles and their honorees. Here’s what the league kindly wrote about their leading attacker from the 2018 campaign:
Barber was the coaches pick for Preseason Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. The senior was the 2017 BIG EAST Player of the Year and 2016 Co-Freshman of the Year and a three-time All-BIG EAST First Team honoree. She led the conference in points and kills per set in 2017 and 2018. As junior in 2018, she recorded 4.96 points and 4.74 kills per set, helping the Golden Eagles to a 15-2 record in BIG EAST play. Overall, Barber averaged 4.67 kills and 4.90 points per set. Barber was the American Volleyball Coaches Association East Coast Region Player of the Year and was an AVCA Second Team All-American. She also earned CoSIDA Google Cloud Academic All-District First Team honors. In 2017, Barber earned AVCA All-America honorable mention.
She’s, y’know, good at this whole jump and smash volleyball thing.
Barber is one of four unanimous choices to the preseason all-conference team, where she is joined by teammates Martha Konovodoff and Hope Werch. Here’s what the league said about them:
Bolstering Marquette’s first-place pick were preseason all-BIG EAST selections junior libero Martha Konovodoff and junior outside hitter Hope Werch. Konovodoff was a 2018 BIG EAST Second Team honoree and AVCA All-American honorable mention in 2018. In league games she averaged 4.85 digs per set. Werch was the 2017 Freshman of the Year. As a sophomore, she led the Conference in aces with 27 [or] 0.51 per set.
Here’s the full rundown on the all-conference team:
2019 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team
Anna Logan, Butler, R-Sr., OH
Megan Ballenger, Creighton, Sr., MB
^ Madelyn Cole, Creighton, Sr., S
Brittany Witt, Creighton, Sr., L
Brittany Maxwell, DePaul, R-Sr., RS
^ Allie Barber, Marquette, Sr., OH
Martha Konovodoff, Marquette, Jr., L
Hope Werch, Marquette, Jr., OH
^ Efronsini Alexakou, St. John’s, So., OH
^ Erica Di Maulo, St. John’s, Sr., S
Amanda Sanabia, St. John’s, Jr., L
Regan Lough, Villanova, Sr., L
The carrots mark the four unanimous choices.
I have serious questions about what’s going on here, and not just because there’s 12 women here when a team generally consists of six players with a libero switching in and out which gets you to seven. The conference choosing to go in that 12 spot route is how we get weirdness like both Creighton’s Madelyn Cole and Erica Di Maulo from St. John’s ending up as unanimous choices as the only two setters on the list. It’s weird, but it’s really more traditional weirdness than anything else.
Here’s my big question: Why are there four liberos? Literally one-third of the preseason all-conference team is liberos. 40% of the league’s liberos are preseason all-Big East honorees. This is insane. There are exactly the same number of outside hitters as there are liberos, and generally speaking, every team needs twice as many outside hitters as liberos. I’d go on about why Megan Ballenger is the only middle blocker or hitter, but middles have been a wildly underrepresented position on this all-conference lists for a long time now for whatever reason.
Marquette opens the 2019 season on Friday, August 30th, with two matches as part of a tournament hosted by BYU in Provo, Utah. The home opener is set for Saturday, September 7th, when Syracuse comes to the McGuire Center.
You can check out the full Big East press release on the preseason all-conference honors right here.