After coming back from down 0-2 to beat the Badgers (I smile every time I write those words), the team took care of Syracuse on Saturday with no problem and then got a little bit crushed by Baylor, who is now ranked the fifth best team in the country. Yes, if Marquette didn’t lose to Baylor, they would probably be a top 5 team, but that is nothing to be mad about. The team has a great opportunity to get some more quality wins this weekend as they take on UCF, who is receiving votes in the AVCA poll, and #14 Illinois, who beat MU in the Sweet 16 last year. The team did a great job with scheduling the non-conference schedule, because, you know, they kind of have to because the Big East kinda low key stinks besides Creighton, who is ranked 17th.
Let’s dive into it!
Match #7: vs RV UCF Knights (5-1)
This is Marquette’s first ever meeting with Central Florida.
The UCF Knights come in at 5-1 with the lone loss to Rice who is also receiving votes this week. Can’t fault them for that. The team seems to have found their groove recently as they have won four straight against decent opponents, and thanks to a comeback from down 0-2 against Ole Miss, they’ve won 12 straight sets right now.
McKenna Melvile leads the team’s offense with 3.86 kills per set. That is pretty good for six games into the season. The Knights have three players all hitting above 3 kills per set, which means they like to balance their attacks, but from what I am seeing is that Melville is their top and primary hitter with 75 more attacks than the next highest total.
Here’s a new one for me: The Knights don’t really have a primary setter. They have three players all assisting above four kills per set. None of the three has started more than three matches this season, so head coach Todd Dagenais is shuffling the deck a lot. Senior Erin Olson is averaging 5.91 assists per set, while her sophomore sister Amber is averaging 5.38 assists per set. I don’t really understand the set up, but hey whatever works.
I think Marquette comes out hungry in this one coming off the loss to Baylor and sweeps the Knights in three. Each set may be close but I think the Golden Eagles come out victorious in each.
Match #8: vs #14 Illinois Fighting Illini (2-2)
Marquette is 0-5 all time against Illinois.
We got a 2018 revenge game here! The Illini knocked out our Golden Eagles in the Sweet 16 last year and they have not forgotten about it. This should be a great game and a good test for the Golden Eagles. The Illini come in at 2-2 and falling out of the top five in the country after dropping two straight to then-#16 Washington and Colorado. They were fifth in the country last week and started off the year with back-to-back wins over then-#19 Tennessee, so they’re no slouch.
Jacqueline Quade comes in to the contest averaging 5.83 kills per set, which is absolutely ridiculous. It’s only through four matches, but it’s still ridiculous because it did comes against three top 20 opponents. Every other hitter is above 2 kills per set, which is still great, but Quade is the number one name on the scouting report here by far.
Diana Brown will handle the setting duties for the Illini. She is averaging 10.78 assists per set, which is great. She had 65 assists in one of the wins over Tennessee and 57 in the loss to Washington. The redshirt freshman is having a stellar first year so far, perhaps more so for a redshirt freshman.
This is a Revenge Game, so I think Marquette comes in ready to battle, both over that loss a year ago as well as Sunday’s loss to Baylor. The Illini are almost always a great team, as four of MU’s meetings (and thus four losses) with them have come in the NCAA tournament. This one is going to go five most likely and I think Marquette takes it.
Match #9: at Illinois State Redbirds (5-1)
Date: Sunday September 15th
Time: 3 PM CT
Location: Redbird Arena, Normal, IL
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
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Marquette is 2-1 all time against Illinois State after beating them in the McGuire Center a year ago.
This Redbird team is not bad at all. Coming in at 5-1 with the one loss coming from a good Pepperdine team that was getting preseason top 25 votes, the Redbirds are solid. This should be a good match for the Golden Eagles after two tough opponents in a row.
Kaylee Martin leads the Redbird offense with 3.78 kills per set. That’s great six matches into the season and based off what I have seen from Martin so far, I expect her to be around those numbers for the season. The Redbirds have two more hitters above two kills per set, which helps Martin out a lot.
Stef Jankiewicz sets for the Redbirds, averaging 10.35 assists per set. The offense runs through Jankiewicz, so if she is off then the whole offense is off. She loves to go to Martin on offense but with four attackers racking up at least 100 attacks so far this season, Jankiewicz can spread the floor if she likes.
This should be an easy contest for the Golden Eagles, coming off two tough matches. Marquette will take this in three and then prepare for a tournament at home.