clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

#16 Marquette Volleyball Preview: at #21 Creighton & at Xavier

First place in the Big East is on the line in Omaha, amongst other things.

Big East Tournament First Round: Marquette v Creighton Photo by Porter Binks/Getty Images

I want to open up this preview with a stat that Creighton SID Rob Anderson dropped onto the Twitter Machine the other day.

One teensy correction, as Rob missed Marquette’s loss to Wisconsin this season in the “losses to anyone else” in there. 107-24 this year and the past four campaigns. 1-10 against Creighton. 106-14 against literally anyone else. Three of those 14 are NCAA tournament losses: Illinois, Purdue, and Dayton. One is a loss to St. John’s in the 2019 Big East tournament title match. Three of those losses are to Wisconsin in the yearly in-state competition.

10 total losses to the Bluejays, seven of them in the regular season, three in the Big East tournament championship match. 10 regular season losses to everyone else in the country. Seven regular season losses to teams that aren’t National Powerhouse Wisconsin.

And people wonder why I want D.J. Sokol Arena shot into the sun.

At least Creighton gets to experience this same sensation when they play Nebraska.

First place is on the line in that house of horrors in Omaha on Friday night. Both Marquette and Creighton are 6-0 in Big East play right now. The winner will be 7-0 and alone in first place, while the loser will be 6-1 and alone in second place. Heading into the weekend, St. John’s is alone in third place at 5-2 as the Red Storm beat Seton Hall 3-1 on Wednesday to break up a 4-2 tie between the two teams. Nothing will be finalized in the standings, as it is still much too early to start saying anything is clinched and MU and CU will clash again in Milwaukee in the regular season finale for both teams. We’ll have to get through 10 more matches between now and then to officially determine whether a shared title or a solo title will be at stake on November 19th, so for now, you have to think about Friday night’s contest as deciding the top seed in the Big East tournament.

There’s more at stake than that, I think. The NCAA is only updating the RPI once a week, so for now I’m stuck using numbers through matches played on October 9th to talk about this. But what I know is that Marquette is sitting at #13 in the RPI as of that time. Nothing is guaranteed of course, as the selection committee can choose to do whatever they want when it comes time to assigning the top 16 teams and thus the hosting duties for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. But, I think it is safe to say that Marquette is in the conversation for a top 16 spot right now between that #16 ranking in the AVCA poll and the #13 RPI. Do you think a road win over the #21 RPI team might help Marquette’s RPI and thus their argument to host NCAA tournament games at the McGuire Center for just the second time in program history? MU is currently 1-1 against RPI top 25 teams this season — W at #12 Kentucky, L at #8 Wisconsin — and undefeated against the rest of the country, which includes a 6-0 mark against top 100 opponents. MU’s chances against the top 25 are limited — unless #35 LSU goes on a run here — so they have to take full advantage of the chances they get to impress the selection committee.

Big East Match #7: at #21 Creighton Bluejays (14-3, 6-0 Big East)

Date: Friday, October 14, 2022
Time: 6:30pm Central
Location: D.J. Sokol Arena, Omaha, Nebraska
Streaming: FloSports, with Jon Schriner and Shannon Smolinski calling the action
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 5-24 all time against Creighton. That series dates back to a neutral site match in 1980, but that was before MU’s transition to Division 1. Since picking it up after that in 2005, it’s “only” a 5-23 record thanks to that 1-10 mark in the last four seasons. It’s actually 11 losses in the last 12 matches against the Bluejays, and Marquette has only won in Omaha once since winning the 2013 Big East championship match there. That one win was a 3-0 sweep as part of a two-match set against the Bluejays in the 2020-21 spring campaign.

The three losses: at home vs then-#16 Kentucky, we’ll call it a neutral site game against then-#2 Nebraska, at Rice. You might say, hey, wait a minute, they lost to Rice? Sure, but let me put it this way: Rice is currently 15-2, #10 in the RPI, and #22 in the AVCA poll. The losses are Creighton’s three toughest opponents of the season by way of the RPI calculation, and they still have a pair of top 30 wins in their back pocket against USC and Florida State to balance that out. In short: Jays are good, y’all. Doubt them at your peril.

This is going to be an incredible duel. Top two hitting offenses and defenses in the Big East, top two in kills, top two in assists. Marquette does hold the advantage in every single category there, but the differences are so fractional, it’s only worth mentioning by giant MU homers like me. The only one that’s not very close is offensive hitting, where Marquette leads .287 to .255. If we’re talking about the top two defenses trying to stop the two two offenses, the good news for the Golden Eagles is that their hitting has a higher position to start falling from in the first place.

Norah Sis is a machine. 3.91 kills per set so far this year for the Bluejays, which is more than a full kill ahead of Keeley Davis in second place at 2.73. Sis has taken nearly a third of Creighton’s swings though, and she is hitting just .209. If Marquette’s blocking scheme can take away her good looks, that’s going to force the Jays to start looking elsewhere for offense. That decision will be up to setter Kendra Wait, who is locked in a duel with Yadhira Anchante and St. John’s Wiktoria Kowalczyk for the top assists average in the Big East. All three women are within 0.60 assists per set right now.

One potential advantage for Marquette is that Creighton is near the bottom of the conference in blocks per set this season. They don’t have anyone in the top seven of the conference, which is a department led by MU’s Carsen Murray, and Kiera Reinhardt’s 0.84/set leads the Jays. Now, that’s blocking for points, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as disrupting an attack. We’ll have to see if Marquette’s offense can get clean looks across the net and past CU’s blocking attempts.

Big East Match #8: at Xavier Musketeers (10-6, 3-3 Big East)

Date: Sunday, October 16, 2022
Time: Noon Central
Location: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
Streaming: FloSports
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 17-9 all time against Xavier, and 15-7 since MU moved to Division 1 competition. The Golden Eagles have won seven straight matches against the Musketeers, dropping just three sets across those matches since 2017. MU has won four straight contests in Cincinnati.

Xavier comes into the weekend on two straight losses last weekend at Providence and UConn, and a 3-0 loss at Creighton on September 28th gives them three defeats in their last four times out. That means they were 9-3 before that downturn, and that’s definitely more impressive sounding than 10-6. They will also host DePaul on Friday night before Marquette comes to town, so that gives them an advantage in the “who will come in with a win in their most recent match” department. Before falling to the Bluejays, Xavier had won four straight, including two over local rivals Miami and Cincinnati as well as two home dates against Villanova and Georgetown to start Big East play. Can they regain their form against DePaul before facing either a MU team riding high off a win or a Marquette squad out for revenge following their second loss of the season?

Senior Brooklyn Cink is Xavier’s offensive leader, racking up 3.10 kills per set while hitting .243. Behind her... well, it’s something of a mess. Cink herself has only played in 60 of XU’s 65 sets this season, but their next three hitters based on kills average have played in 51, 50, and 33 sets respectively. Sophomore Emma Grace is the third one there, and she’s the most unlikely to play on Sunday. She hasn’t played at all since the September 18th match against Cincinnati. Marquette may be best served by trying to get Xavier to funnel their offense to MaryAnn O’Toole. The senior from Louisville is second on the team in swings behind Cink by just 24 attempts, but she’s hitting only .126 and thus averaging just 1.85 kills a set.

Carrigan O’Reilly has played in every set this season, but she’s only averaging 7.88 assists per frame. It appears that Xavier was going with a two setter rotation for a while, but it’s been exclusively O’Reilly in Big East action where she’s racking up 10.27 assists/set. That’s “approaching best in the Big East” type of stuff, so she knows what she’s doing out there.

The defense is anchored by Lucia Corsaro at libero. She’s averaging 4.28 digs per set, and no one else on the team is north of 2.80. Xavier’s blocking situation is even more dire than Creighton’s is, which is probably good news for the best hitting offense in the league. XU’s best “I’m out there all the time” blocker is Cink.... and she’s at less than a block every other set. Officially, Delaney Hogan is the team leader at 0.72/set, but she sat down for two sets against Providence last weekend as part of the 15 sets she’s missed all year.