2022 Big East Volleyball Tournament
#1 Marquette Golden Eagles (26-2, 17-1 Big East) vs #5 Connecticut Huskies (17-13, 10-8 Big East)
Season Series: Marquette won, 2-0
All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 11-3, and have won eight straight meetings.
UConn is one of the hottest teams in college volleyball right now. At one point this season, they were 0-5 in Big East play and 6-10 on the season. They were clearly and deeply in trouble, particularly coming off one of the best seasons in recent program history in 2021. Y’all can do math here. They went 10-3 the rest of the way in Big East play, falling only to Creighton and Marquette before taking a season ending loss to Butler that landed them in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Big East and ending up with the #5 seed instead of tying with Xavier for third and ending up at #4 by way of tiebreakers.
Still, that’s 10-3, which is a lot better than 6-10 to start the year, and their five-set victory over #4 seed St. John’s in the first round gave them an 11-3 run since losing in five sets to then-#21 Creighton at home back on October 7th. Good luck finding a lot of teams that are doing better than that since that point of the season, and for context: #14 in the country Marquette is 12-1 since that same day.
The Huskies came dang close to not getting to Friday’s semifinals, though. They took the first set from St. John’s, 25-19, but dropped the next two frames 25-22 and 25-18, including allowing the Johnnies to hit .520 in the third. They bounced back in a big way in the fourth set in Omaha, hitting .467 vs SJU’s .219 to run away with the frame and force a fifth set. After that, the Huskies teetered on the edge of losing as they fell behind 6-2 and 8-3 in the decisive set. With 15 points as the target score, sitting with a five point deficit when the other team is more than halfway there is bad. It got real close for UConn, as they did not finally tie the thing up until Brenna Wyman fired off a service ace to make it 13-13, and even then, the Huskies had to fend off match points twice and force things to extra points. All three of Connecticut’s match-winning points to tilt the fifth set from 15-14 St. John’s to 17-15 UConn came as blocks with Jasmine Davis and Kennadie Jake-Turner teaming up for two of them, including the winner.
Marquette won both regular season meetings between these two teams by way of 3-0 sweep. The first one was part of UConn’s bad start to league play back in late September, while the second one was less than two weeks ago in Storrs. MU held the Huskies to fewer than 20 points in four of the six sets, splitting those down the middle two and two. The Golden Eagles, coming in as the Big East’s best hitting offense this season, nearly hit over their season average in both contests. They hit exactly their average of .293 in Milwaukee and then loaded up at .324 in the more recent second encounter. Both times involved the Huskies failing to hit better than .200 overall and the Golden Eagles held them under .100 in two of the six sets.
It was a little one-sided is what I’m saying.
I don’t know if it means anything in particular for this meeting, but it’s worth noting that Aubrey Hamilton (13) and Carsen Murray (12) both averaged over four kills per set in the second meeting. Meanwhile, going the other direction in that same match, the Golden Eagles held every Huskies player under 10 kills across three sets, and only Caylee Parker, the best individual attacker by average on either team this season, got to nine in that one for a three per set average. Of the 150 points that MU has tallied against UConn this season, 39 of them have come off either Marquette service aces or UConn hitting errors. I haven’t done any long term studies on these things, but it feels like getting 26% of your points without a play at the net feels like a very good thing.