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RV Marquette Volleyball Preview: vs Connecticut & at DePaul

The Golden Eagles can knock two teams from the ranks of the unbeaten in Big East play this weekend.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Buffalo vs UConn David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette volleyball gets a fantastic opportunity to affect the Big East standings this weekend.

Here’s how things look at the top of the conference right now, sorted by overall winning percentage:

Creighton, 2-0
Marquette, 2-0
UConn, 2-0
DePaul, 2-0

And that’s it for undefeated teams through two matches for everyone.

No surprise to see the Bluejays at the top there, and we already knew that Marquette was 2-0. I don’t want to say it’s a surprise to see the Huskies or the Blue Demons in spots #3 and #4, but those are the teams that are there right now.

They’re also the two teams that Marquette will face this weekend.

It’s a long 18 match conference schedule, so lots can happen over the next 16 contests. But for right now, for where we are at this moment, the Golden Eagles have the chance to dictate terms as to who is and who is not going to stay within shouting distance of first place come Monday morning.

The expectation amongst most people in the league was that the October 10th match (hey, that’s next weekend!) between Marquette and Creighton would be a battle of the unbeatens, the two teams most likely to win the conference this season. Well, you can’t arrive at next weekend without going through this weekend to get there, and so Marquette’s pathway to that showdown with the Bluejays goes through these two battles of the unbeatens first.

Something to keep an eye on this weekend is the availability of Katie Schoessow. The redshirt junior defensive specialist did not even travel to Villanova and Georgetown last weekend, marking the first time this season that she did not make it into the starting lineup either as libero or as DS alongside Carly Skrabak at the libero spot. No explanation of this was provided, in fact it was just casually mentioned during one of the FloSports broadcasts and then never elaborated upon. Marquette’s other three defensive specialists on the roster — Jadyn Garrison, Megan Lund, and Samantha Naber — have played in just 29 combined sets this season and have recorded just 14 digs between them. Seven of those 29 combined sets were in last weekend’s two matches, and five of the digs as well, three by Garrison in the Nova contest. It’s unclear how much hasty rearranging had to be done in MU’s gameplan without Schoessow available, but it’s also relatively clear that the other women at her position on the roster weren’t being asked to pick up her slack either.

Big East Match #3: vs Connecticut Huskies (10-4, 2-0 Big East)

Date: Friday, October 1, 2021
Time: 5pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloSports
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

By the way, we should point this out one last time: Marquette Madness is tonight. If you’re reading this and you’re planning on attending that event at the McGuire Center, I highly recommend that you make your way to the building in time for the volleyball match or at the very least as soon as you possibly can make it there. Marquette will not be clearing the arena after the volleyball match, and thus, the doors will open for Marquette Madness at 4pm Central effectively as a result.

Marquette is 6-3 all time against Connecticut. The two sides have not met since 2012, the last time they were both in the Big East together, as the league went to a divisional format in the spring. MU won the last three meetings in the series, all by the score of 3-1.

The Huskies come into Friday night on a five match winning streak, and with wins in seven of their last eight. None of the wins are immediately obvious as big wins for UConn, at least not until their most recent match. That was their second in Big East action this season, and they swept St. John’s, a squad that most would consider to have NCAA tournament aspirations this season. That one was competitive, with the Huskies winning 25-23, 25-22, and 26-24.

Caylee Parker is the current top option for the Huskies, as she leads the team in attacks by more than 50 as well as topping the chart at 3.02 kills per set. The 5’11” Canadian does have one notable flaw in her game: She’s only hitting .199 this season. The Huskies have three regulars all hitting over .300 so far this fall, and all three are middle blockers. You would like to think that a team would want to lean on their most efficient attackers, but that’s not the case, at least not to this juncture of the campaign.

McKayla Wuensch handles the setting duties almost exclusively to the tune of 8.88 assists per set. Four UConn regulars average more than two digs per set, led by 4.00 on the button from Karly Berkland, but it’s the combination of Kennadie Jake-Turner, Taylor Pannell, and Allie Garland that will have to earn MU’s attention the most from the Huskies’ defense. All three women are averaging at least one block per set this season, and KJT leads the way at 1.18 per frame. Averaging three points per set merely on blocks is a pretty good number, and it will clearly be a big job for Marquette to avoid this pitfall.

Big East Match #4: at DePaul Blue Demons (9-5, 2-0 Big East)

Date: Sunday, October 3, 2021
Time: 3pm Central
Location: McGrath-Phillips Arena, Chicago, Illinois
Streaming: FloSports
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 33-29 all time against DePaul, but that’s a little misleading. MU went 2-4 against the Blue Demons before officially become a Division 1 program in 1986. So it’s 31-25 in Division 1 since 1986, and even that’s misleading. Marquette is currently on a 20 match winning streak against DePaul dating all the way back to the 2009 season. The Golden Eagles have also won each of the last nine matches by way of a sweep.

DePaul is currently undefeated in Big East action, and thus in a four-way tie with Marquette, Creighton, and Connecticut in that department so far this season. That’s good news, no doubt. They also went just 7-5 in non-conference action, and they had to go 3-0 in the final weekend of non-con play just to get there. Before that, they took losses to Southeast Missouri State and Ball State amongst others, and, well, I suppose it’s possible that DePaul has Figured Some Things Out and now they’re much better than they were back on August 27th.

DePaul’s offense is a little hard to wrap your arms around at this point of the year. Jill Pressly is the top attacker at 3.51 kills/set, and Emma Price is #2 at 2.30/set. However, neither woman has played in every set this year with Price missing two and Pressly missing one. Donna Brown has played in every set and she’s averaging just over two kills per set AND she’s the most precise attacker out of the trio with a hitting percentage of .305.

In addition to all of that, I’m not 100% certain what’s up with DePaul’s setter position. Ashley Cudiamat appears to have part of the job locked down by appearing in all 52 sets and dishing 5.73 assists/set. After Cudiamat? Phoenix Lee has 18 sets worth of experience and is dishing out 4.28 assists, while Molly Murrihy is up at 36 sets and 4.72 assists/set. You’ll notice that 18 and 36 add up to 54, which means there are at least two sets out there where DePaul has played both Lee and Murrihy in some sort of rotation with Cudiamat. No idea what to expect on Sunday, honestly.

Rachel Krasowski’s ability to cover all of the parts of the earth that aren’t covered by water is likely Marquette’s biggest problem on defense. She’s averaging 5.21 digs per set so far this season, and that’s even with Pressly coming in second on the team at 3.12. Brown is holding up her end of the blocking scheme pretty well at 0.88/set, but it’s Aly Kindelberger that leads the team at 1.08 blocks/set.