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#18 Marquette Volleyball Preview: at St. John’s & at Seton Hall

The Golden Eagles head out on the road for the first time in a month and for the first time in conference action.

Big East Tournament Quarterfinals: St. John’s vs Creighton Getty Images

It appears that the NCAA has officially kicked off the RPI tracking for women’s volleyball, so we can start to get a picture of where Marquette stands in a national picture. Through games played on October 2nd, Marquette’s RPI is at #18. That’s best in the Big East, two spots ahead of Creighton, and yeah, it’s not a surprise that the two squads are this close at this point of the show.

However, it seems apparent that MU’s pathway towards keeping themselves in the top 25 of that department is going to require them to keep their 11 match winning streak going for a bit longer. There are just two other Big East teams — conveniently, it’s the two teams that MU is playing on the road this weekend — that are in the top 100. There are three teams hovering around the #130 spot, two more around #170, and two who are sub-200.

To draw a comparison: We make jokes about how bad Georgetown men’s basketball was last season...... and they were at #157 in the RPI when Big East play started before finishing just inside the top 200. There are definitely two and arguably four teams in the Big East in volleyball who are worse off than Georgetown men’s basketball was last year.

One of the four, the worst of the four as it happens, is Georgetown. Insert commentary about the GU athletic department here.

So this is just what Marquette has to do. Attack the rest of the season with a mindset of trying to run the table in the Big East. Any slipups against anyone not from Omaha is going to start to put things that this team has for goals this season at risk. Heck, given that St. John’s is sitting at #95 in the RPI, beating them might actually take a top 100 win away from the Golden Eagles. That’s where we’re at here.

By the way, speaking of goals: There are three teams in a tie for the second best record in the conference at 3-1, one game behind Marquette and Creighton at 4-0. MU is going to play two of them this weekend. Moving to 6-0 while dropping both of them to 4-2 at best would be very helpful towards MU snagging a second straight regular season championship. Because next weekend has Marquette and Creighton on a collision course and scoreboard watching is important sometimes, I think it is important to point out that the Bluejays are facing UConn and Providence on the road on Friday and Saturday respectively.

Big East Match #5: at St. John’s Red Storm (12-5, 3-1 Big East)

Date: Friday, October 7, 2022
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Carnesecca Arena, Jamaica, New York
Streaming: ESPN3, believe it or not
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 21-6 all time against St. John’s. The Golden Eagles have won 10 of the last 11 meetings including a 3-2 thriller in Queens in the most recent encounter last season.

St. John’s is having a weird season. After a 3-0 start to the season against teams they absolutely should have beaten in an event hosted by Charleston Southern, the Johnnies went out to Las Vegas for an event that UNLV was running..... and lost three straight and only won two sets along the way. The Miami and UNLV losses aren’t that big of a deal if you glance at the ol’ RPI, and Weber State wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but 3-3 after a 3-0 start is not great..... and then they made it worse by losing at Fairfield. With the record standing at 3-4, the Red Storm promptly ripped off an eight match winning streak that featured not one but four contests that went to five sets. That gave them a 2-0 start to Big East play, which is neat.

Losing to a Villanova team that was 4-10 coming in and off to an 0-2 start in Big East play? Bad! They bounced back by beating Georgetown in their most recent match.... but the Johnnies needed five sets to beat a Hoyas squad that’s currently 3-12. It’s not encouraging, that’s for sure. Still, 3-1 in the league is good enough for a three-way tie for third place in the conference at the moment, and that’s actually a three-way tie for the second best record in the standings. All things considered, that’s not the worst thing in the world for a Red Storm team that was picked to finish fifth in the Big East this year.

The St. John’s primary attack is going to look very familiar to Marquette. There’s Rachele Rastelli, doing Rachele Rastelli things and averaging 3.62 kills per set while hitting a very good .274. Except.... believe it or not, Rastelli is not leading the team. Sophomore Giorgia Walther is averaging 3.64 kills per set to give the Red Storm a very potent 1-2 punch. Can’t help but wonder if the difference between Rastelli and Walther is the fact that Walther has missed two sets this season while Rastelli has played in all 71.

Polish sophomore Wiktoria Kowalczyk keeps the international theme going amongst the Johnnies’ top line players as she averages 10.92 assists per set. She leads the league and is one of just three (CU’s Kendra Wait and MU’s Yadhira Anchante are the other two) who are north of 10 helpers a set. St. John’s is last in the Big East in digs, so it’s probably not a surprise to see Bree Martin leading the team with just 3.17 and only one other player above two digs per frame. Magda Stambrowska is putting down 1.04 blocks per set for points, and Eleonora Tosi is just barely under 1.0 there as well. The Red Storm have some deep bench options who are averaging a full block or better as well, so it’s clearly not an accident that they’re #2 in the league in that department.

Big East Match #6: at Seton Hall Pirates (12-4, 3-1 Big East)

Date: Saturday, October 8, 2022
Time: 3pm Central
Location: Walsh Gymnasium, South Orange, New Jersey
Streaming Video: FloSports
Streaming Audio: WSOU
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 20-5 all time against Seton Hall. The Golden Eagles’ winning streak in the series now sits at 11 straight, which is every match since SHU knocked MU out in the 2014 Big East tournament semifinals.

It is the first week of October and there are still 14 matches of Big East play left to go as I write this. I want these facts established before I say this: What is it going to take for someone who is not SHU head coach Shannon Thompson to win Big East Coach Of The Year at the end of November?

ITEM THE FIRST: Seton Hall went 14-18 last season, with a 6-12 record in Big East play.

ITEM THE SECOND: Head Coach Allison Yaeger stepped down as head coach, with the announcement of said fact coming on January 19th, nearly two months after SHU’s season ended.

ITEM THE THIRD: It took Seton Hall until March 3rd to announce Thompson as the new head coach.

ITEM THE FOURTH: Thompson and Seton Hall announced the hiring of her two assistant coaches on May 3rd and May 23rd respectively, two months and coming up on three months after Thompson was announced.

ITEM THE FIFTH: Seton Hall was picked to finish dead last in the Big East, probably largely due to Items #2 through 4 on this list, and they picked up just four points more than the bare minimum 10 points that a unanimous last place vote would have given them.

ITEM THE SIXTH: Seton Hall started the year with wins in six of their first seven matches, and they finished non-conference action with nine wins, one more than they had last year.

ITEM THE SEVENTH: SHU has three wins in Big East action just four matches in, just three short of how many they had last year with 14 more contests left to play.

Yeah, there’s a lot of volleyball left to go here and anything can happen — like, say, for example, losing to a very bad Georgetown team like Seton Hall did last Friday night — but if the Pirates qualify for the six team conference tournament, how can anyone vote for anyone but Thompson??

Jenna Walsh is Seton Hall’s leading attacker at 3.44 kills per set, and she’s way out in front of everyone in terms of carrying the load as the primary attacker as well. Bianca Bucciarelli and Perri Lucas provide the Pirates with a lot of pop as secondary options with both women north of 2.6 kills per set. Thompson has Seton Hall using a two setter rotation, and both Maddie Klungel and Taylor Jakubowski are averaging more than 4.7 assists per frame this season. Even libero and noted Wisconsin product Anna Holland gets into the passing fray and she’s averaging just over an assist per set to go with her team high 4.34 digs.

Seton Hall is middle of the pack in the Big East at converting blocks to points, but whatever action they do create, it’s because of Asli Subasili. She averages a team high 1.07 blocks per set, and the 6’2” Turkish freshman is probably going to cause all sorts of problems for the league for a long while.