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RV Marquette Volleyball Preview: The Marquette Invitational

The Golden Eagles stay at home and look to shake off their back-to-back top 10 losses last weekend.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 13 Louisiana Tech at UTSA Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

6-2 is pretty much the expected season record at this point of things for Marquette volleyball. You could argue that it’s a little bit better than expected since MU beat a Hawaii team that was receiving top 25 votes on their floor in the opening weekend of the season. That’s not a shocker win, but if you think that maybe UH and MU are approximately in the same place in the volleyball universe, then maybe it was only 50/50 that the Golden Eagles got that win in the first place.

Then again, Hawaii is 3-5 this season and they’re probably going to want that five set loss to Utah Valley back.

In any case, the point of the story is that it was going to be hard to beat Kentucky and Wisconsin, even at home. Marquette did not beat them, although MU looked closer to the Wildcats than the Badgers, but there’s nothing wrong with losing the rough equivalent, based on the AVCA poll, of an Elite Eight or Final Four game.

This coming weekend, Marquette has a trio of matches this weekend against what appears to be beatable opponents, all in the friendly confines of the McGuire Center. These will be the last three matches of the season before the Golden Eagles jump head first into the 18 match Big East schedule. Why is it 18 and not a full 20 match round robin? Who knows, but I suspect that MU head coach Ryan Theis and Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth are not complaining about starting league play this weekend.

Three more matches to get things tuned up to rip through Big East play, three matches to work on whatever things that the coaching staff found to most need improvement after last weekend’s two losses to top 10 opponents.

Should be fun! Get yourself to the McGuire Center if you can.

Match #9: vs Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners (3-6)

Date: Friday, September 17, 2021
Time: Noon Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming: FloVolleyball
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 1-0 all time against UTSA. The lone meeting between the two teams came back in 2014 when the Golden Eagles defeated the Roadrunners 3-1 in the — surprise! — Marquette Invitational.

The Roadrunners have been out there banging their head on the wall a little bit this season so far. When you sign up to play preseason #20 and preseason #1 in your first weekend of action, you’re probably going to take some losses. With that said, UTSA wasn’t really coming into things with a position of strength this season, as they were picked to finish fifth in Conference USA’s West Division this fall. Perhaps that explains losses to Ole Miss, Houston, and Texas A&M so far this year as well.

Texas-San Antonio seems to be doing a pretty good job on defense this season. They’re holding teams to just .191 hitting through nine matches against some pretty decent opposition. Amanda Ifeanyi is a notable reason why, as she leads the team at 1.00 blocks per set. Digs seem to be coming to the Roadrunners by committee as three players are averaging more than two per set and Mia Ybarra’s 3.70 is tops on the squad.

Hanna Lopez is the top option on offense so far this year, but she’s not a particularly dynamic attacker overall. 2.30 kills per set isn’t going to wow anyone, and that goes double when you’re hitting just .149. Lopez has had to hold things together for UTSA this season as only one — Ifeanyi, as luck has it — of the seven women who are averaging more than a kill per set have played in every set and only three of them have played in 30 of 31.

Match #10: vs Wright State Raiders (6-3)

Date: Friday, September 17, 2021
Time: 7:30pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming: FloVolleyball
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 1-2 all time against Wright State. The most recent meeting between the two sides was back in 2002 when the Raiders got a 3-0 victory at a tournament hosted by Purdue Fort Wayne. MU’s win came in five sets in 1998, while WSU won the first meeting in their building back in 1988.

The Raiders are coming off an NCAA tournament appearance in the spring after winning the Horizon League and they started this fall earning votes in the AVCA poll. That stopped after Week 1 when they got swept on a neutral floor by Western Michigan….. but then still beat host Michigan State in that event. They followed that up with a loss to Ball State the next weekend, and they are currently coming off a five set loss to an Illinois State team that clearly isn’t the same ISU squad that won the Missouri Valley in the spring. WSU might still be the favorite in the Horizon League, but whatever top 25 hopes they had for this season are probably completely out the door right now.

Megan Alders and Celia Powers provide a solid one-two punch on offense for Wright State. Both women average north of two kills per set and Alders is just barely short of three per frame. However, WSU is funneling offense to them to make that happen as both women are hitting below .200 through nine matches. In fact, no one with more than 10 attacks so far this season are hitting north of .240.

Jenna Story may appear to be everywhere on the floor at once to opposing attackers as she averages more than five digs per set, and three more women are averaging north of two per frame. Nyssa Baker and Grace Hauck are a pretty solid blocking tandem. They’re not going to dominate the net as neither one is at a block per set, but they’re both north of 0.80/set and when you have two women doing that, you’re getting pretty good results.

Match #11: vs Northern Iowa Panthers (4-6)

Date: Saturday, September 18, 2021
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming: Marquette Wire YouTube
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 5-4 all time against Northern Iowa and 4-3 since moving to Division 1. The Golden Eagles won the most recent meeting in Milwaukee back in the spring with a score of 3-1. This will actually be the fourth straight season that the two teams have met, and MU has won the last four encounters going back to the 2015 NCAA tournament.

Things aren’t going particularly great in non-conference play for Northern Iowa as their record shows you. While UNI is a perennial NCAA tournament team, they were only picked to finish sixth in the Missouri Valley this fall even though they did get one first place vote. With that said, their losses aren’t necessarily of the “OMG how did this happen” variety. In one weekend, they took losses to the current #8 and #17 teams in the country in Kentucky and Creighton and their third match of that tournament was a loss to USC which is far from a poor showing. They also took a loss the next weekend to a Washington State team that started out the year in the AVCA top 25 as well. They’re losing matches to teams that were supposed to challenge them is the point of the story, and it’s all coming up snake eyes for them. Not great, of course, but that’s the chance that you take.

It seems like Northern Iowa is trying to figure out who their best offensive option is this season. Emily Holterhaus is their top attacker by way of kills per set this season… but she’s only averaging 2.09 per set this year while leading the team in total attacks…. and she’s only hitting .028. As you can probably guess, no one else on the team is averaging over two kills a set, but they have five players who have played in at least 30 of their 33 sets who are averaging north of a kill per set. No one is bowling you over with their hitting percentage, but junior Inga Rotto does lead the way at .254 so far.

Holterhaus helps out on the defensive end, ranking second on the team in digs per set at 2.03 per set. The fact that Kaylee Donner leads the team at 2.89/set is probably not a great sign for the Panthers either, and the fact that Donner hasn’t played in five sets probably isn’t great news, either. UNI may have the best named middle blocker in the country in Carly Spies. How great is it to have your top blocker (1.06/set) named SPIES? Rotto does good work at the net as well, averaging 0.86 blocks per frame.