And so we reach the final weekend of the regular season for Marquette Golden Eagles volleyball exactly where we expected we would on the morning of October 30th, if maybe not exactly where we hoped we would.
The Golden Eagles are locked into a tie with Creighton for the top spot in the Big East at 14-2. If Marquette wins their final two matches of the regular season, they will clinch at least a share of the regular season title. Any combination of three Marquette wins or Creighton losses gives the Golden Eagles the top spot in the conference all to themselves and thus clinches the #1 seed in the conference tournament. If the two teams tie for first place, the Bluejays will be the #1 seed because they swept Marquette in the two regular season meetings.
If Marquette wins their two matches this weekend, it will give the Golden Eagles their first Big East regular season or tournament title since 2013.
This is kind of a big deal. These are home matches. If you are in the Milwaukee area, you should go to them. I can not express this point strenuously enough.
In NCAA tournament expectation news, Marquette currently holds an RPI ranking of #14 in the country. After Friday’s match against the worst RPI team in the entire conference, Marquette will play nothing but top 125 RPI teams the rest of the way before the NCAA tournament field is finalized. The Big East tournament field is already finalized with Connecticut and DePaul clinching their spots last weekend, but the seeding is not set yet. In any case, Marquette can’t do any worse than a top 70 opponent in the two match conference tournament.
The point of the story here is that no matter what happens in the Big East tourney, Marquette has all but locked up an at-large bid to the NCAA field. That’s very exciting after the Golden Eagles had a nine year tournament streak snapped in the spring mostly thanks to the NCAA reducing the side of the field. There is an outside chance that Marquette could end up hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament if the Golden Eagles come through with the regular season title and the tournament title, but I think MU currently holding a 0-4 record against ranked opponents this season ends that discussion pretty quickly. Can’t be a top 16 team if you can’t beat any of the top 25 teams that you played, y’know?
One final note to hammer home the point that you should make your way out to the McGuire Center this weekend: Saturday is Senior Night. Marquette has seven seniors on the roster: Ellie Koontz, Kaitlyn Lines, Claire Mosher, Savannah Rennie, Katie Schoessow, Hope Werch, and Taylor Wolf. Quite honestly, that’s most of Marquette’s starting lineup. Turn up to watch them go out on a high note, won’t you?
Big East Match #17: vs Georgetown Hoyas (7-20, 3-13 Big East)
Marquette is 19-4 all time against Georgetown. It’s been all Marquette for the last 16 meetings, and the Golden Eagles have won 21 of the last 22 sets as well after sweeping the Hoyas in D.C. in the first meeting this season.
In a weird coincidence of the schedule, Marquette opened the conference season with matches against Georgetown and Villanova, and now they will close it out with those same two teams. In the intervening 14 matches since MU last saw the Hoyas, Georgetown has gone 3-11. This checks out, as they came into conference play with just four wins in their 11 non-conference contests. Georgetown comes into Friday night on what passes as a hot streak for them as they have won two of their last four matches, and that includes beating Providence 3-1 at McDonough Arena in their most recent match.
Giselle Williams is Georgetown’s top attacker this season, averaging 2.65 kills per set. However, she has missed three matches along the way, and that’s notable because one of them was the win over Providence last time out. She also missed GU’s match against Seton Hall on October 30th, so there’s a real chance that she won’t be available on Friday night. Williams was the only Hoya with more than eight kills in the first match against Marquette earlier this season, so if she can’t go, that’s a pretty big loss for them. Mary Grace Goyena is right behind Williams at 2.60 kills per set and she’s played in more sets (97) than any other attacker on the roster and more than all but one other player.
The player with more sets than Goyena is Jessica Cusi, Georgetown’s libero. She’s been out there for 101 of their 104 sets on the year and she averages 4.40 digs per set to hold GU’s back line together. Chanelle Smith would be Georgetown’s next best defender this season with 1.10 blocks per set, but she’s been in and out of the lineup all year and missed the Providence match as well. Makayla Serrett has been a much more regular presence at the net for Georgtown with 80 sets played, and she’s racking up a block per set this season.
Big East Match #18: vs Villanova Wildcats (15-13, 7-9 Big East)
Marquette is 20-4 all time against Villanova. The Golden Eagles have won seven straight matches in the series and 18 of the last 21 sets as well after winning 3-1 out east earlier this season.
Villanova lost containment on their season back on November 3rd when they lost to Georgetown. Coming into that one, the Wildcats were 6-6 in league play and clearly in contention for a Big East tournament spot. The loss to the Hoyas started them off on a string of three losses in their last four matches coming into this weekend. Mathematically, they might have had a chance to get into the Big East tourney last weekend, but them’s the breaks when you’re on the edge of qualifying and the bear trap known as Playing Creighton gets in your way.
Riley Homer will be the focus of Villanova’s offense on Saturday. She leads the team with 3.34 kills per set and at 1,006 swings on the season, she’s the only hitter north of 560 on the season. The 6’2” Michigan native is only hitting .195, though, so in theory it’s going to be easy for Marquette to either receive her attacks or disrupt her swings with blocks. Kiera Booth is option #2, and honestly, I don’t know why Booth doesn’t get more chances other than maybe because she’s a middle blocker. She’s averaging 2.40 kills/set and hitting .282 this season.
Morgan Belle was Villanova’s setter this season, but she hasn’t played since the loss to Georgetown. That might have something to do with their struggles in their last three matches, as it’s always rough to try and switch setters this late in the year. Andrea Campos appears to have taken over since, but she’s averaging just 6.9 assists per set.
Averi Salvador, one of just three players along with Homer and Booth to play in all 101 sets this season, is averaging 4.09 digs per frame to lead the Villanova defense there. Booth is VU’s best blocker, but she’s only averaging 0.90 blocks for a point per set this season. Next best on the team is Homer at 0.61, so it seems that MU might not have to tactically worry about the Nova blocking system too much.