On Wednesday, just two days before the 2020 shifted to spring season gets underway, the Big East announced the preseason awards for women’s volleyball. The league is going with two regional divisions for this season in the spring of 2021, and so the preseason poll of the coaches has picked an order of finish in each division, but a combined league all-conference team.
We’re here for Marquette related things, so let’s dive into that. The Golden Eagles will be competing in the five team Midwest Division, and they have been picked to finish in second place in the division. As you can guess from the use of the word “Midwest,” that means that Marquette is trailing behind Creighton in the preseason picks. That’s not surprising, as the preseason AVCA poll has the Bluejays at #15 and the Golden Eagles at #20. Maybe it’s a little surprising that the voting was as close as it could get, with Creighton getting 15 points and three first place votes and Marquette ending up at 14 points and two first place votes.
Marquette is trailed by DePaul at eight points, Xavier at seven points, and Butler at six points. The Golden Eagles will play each of the teams in their division twice in Big East play, with both matches coming in one weekend in one location.
Three Golden Eagles have been voted to the 13 member preseason all-Big East team. Senior outside hitter Hope Werch is one of five unanimous choices to the squad. She is joined by sophomore outside hitter Hannah Vanden Berg and senior transfer right side hitter/setter Taylor Wolf. It’s a little surprising that Wolf was not a unanimous choice for the team, given that she was an AVCA All-American Honorable Mention last season. However, because she only was announced as transferring from Green Bay to Marquette in early December, I could see how some of the coaches might have missed that head coach Ryan Theis added her to the roster.
Vanden Berg, a 2019 All-BIG EAST Freshman team pick, returns as an outside hitter for Marquette where she averaged 2.03 kills per set and hit a .253 hitting percentage in her first year on the court for the Golden Eagles.
As a unanimous choice to the preseason squad, Werch will provide senior leadership for MU and was an All-BIG EAST selection and a member of the AVCA All-East Coast Region team in 2019. She is the top returner for the Golden Eagles after averaging 2.82 kills per set and 2.70 digs per set last fall.
Wolf transfers to Marquette from in-state school Green Bay where she earned numerous accolades in her career, including AVCA Honorable Mention All-American and two-time Horizon League Player of the Year. She averaged 4.45 kills per set in 2019.
The Big East issued just one individual award as part of the preseason package. Junior outside hitter Efrosini Alexakou from St. John’s was named Big East Preseason Player of the Year. She was second in the league last year in points and kills per set, trailing behind only Marquette’s Allie Barber. The best returning attacker in the league is usually a safe bet as a preseason POY pick, even more so when her team is also coming off a Big East tournament title and they are picked to win their division, too.
We’ll wrap up with a rundown of how all the voting shook out.
Preseason BIG EAST Volleyball Player of the Year
Efrosini Alexakou, St. John’s, Jr., OH
Preseason All-BIG EAST
(listed alphabetically by institution, then last name)
Melody Davidson, Butler, R-Jr., MB
Keeley Davis, Creighton, So., OH
Erica Kostelac, Creighton, Sr., OH
Jaela Zimmerman, Creighton, Jr., OH ^
Donna Brown, DePaul. Jr., MH ^
Hannah Vanden Berg, Marquette, So., OH
Hope Werch, Marquette, Sr., OH ^
Taylor Wolf, Marquette, Sr., RS/Setter
Jennifer Leitman, Providence, So., OH
Efrosini Alexakou, St. John’s, Jr., OH ^
Rachele Rastelli, St. John’s, Jr. RS ^
Sophia Howling, Villanova, RS-Jr., MH
Lauren Hanlon, Xavier, RS-So., RS
^ — denotes unanimous selection