All Ryan Theis has to do is not put the racecar into the wall.
Through six of the 18 matches of Big East play, Marquette volleyball is 6-0. No one else in the Big East has six wins, and no one else in the league has zero losses.
There is one team at 5-1, and The Scheduling Luck Gods have smiled on the Golden Eagles, as they will get a chance to face that team this weekend. 130-ish points of quality volleyball from Marquette will mean that they win and and that team takes their second loss, moving MU two games in front of the entire league with 10 matches to play.
That’s the entire league, including #17 ranked Creighton, as 1) the Bluejays took a loss to Xavier before 2) they came to Milwaukee this past Friday night and lost, 3-0. That has Creighton tied with the Musketeers with two losses. There’s two teams with three losses already, four teams with four defeats, and poor UConn, down at the bottom of the standings with a record of 0-6.
The pathway to a third straight Big East regular season championship is wide, wide open for Marquette already, and it gets even wider if they beat St. John’s on Saturday. Not just a third straight title, but Marquette’s first outright Big East title since 2013. This isn’t me bragging on MU’s behalf because they were picked to win the league and the ranked team in the league is two games behind them. Please remember: Marquette hasn’t lost to a Big East team not named Creighton since March 5, 2021, during the timeshifted/COVID protocoled Spring 2021 season. The Golden Eagles are 43-6 against Big East teams, regular season and tournament, since that five set loss at Butler in the weirdest volleyball season in recorded history, and all six losses are to Creighton. Forty-three straight wins against the rest of the league.
If Marquette plays Marquette Volleyball the way that they can at their best, that streak should hit 50 straight before they arrive in Omaha on the first Sunday in November to face Creighton for the second time this season. But that’s down the road. This weekend’s mission for Marquette is to move the record to 8-0 and open up that two game lead on every one in the league and give themselves that cushion just in case that 43 match streak doesn’t get to 54 by the end of the regular season. Oh, and pick up a top 70 road win, because St. John’s is the third best RPI team in the Big East right now.
We’re nowhere close to seeing Marquette clinching anything. The Golden Eagles are still seven wins and/or UConn losses away from confirming that MU won’t finish last this season.
Just don’t put the racecar into the wall, and good things will be happening.
Big East Match #7: at Seton Hall Pirates (8-9, 2-4 Big East)
Marquette is 22-5 all time against Seton Hall. The Golden Eagles’ winning streak in the series now sits at 13 straight, which is every match since SHU knocked MU out in the 2014 Big East tournament semifinals.
Last year, Seton Hall finished 15-15 overall, and their 6-12 Big East record meant that they went 9-3 in non-conference action. This year, the Pirates went 6-5 in non-conference action. That seems sub-optimal for them. They don’t even get the benefit of the doubt that we can extend to Marquette’s non-conference record, as the only top 80 RPI team on the slate was Penn State. The Pirates also took two sub-170 RPI losses, at least based on the current RPI metrics, and that’s probably a big reason why they’re a sub-200 team themselves right now.
SHU comes into the weekend on a four match losing streak, which is a real bummer for them since they opened up Big East play 2-0 with home wins over Providence and Creighton. Losing to Creighton on the road is no big deal, that happens, but they’ve also taken losses to St. John’s (mostly not a big deal the way things are going), Butler, and Xavier. They did take a set from both the Musketeer and the Bulldogs last weekend, as well as from the Johnnies, so at least they’re being feisty about their losses?
Things have gotten notably more difficult for the Pirates since they crossed over into Big East play. For the season, they’re hitting .176 as a team while allowing opponents to hit .187. Not what you want, of course, but it’s close. In Big East action, however, those numbers change to .153 for the Pirates and .229 for their opponents.
Madeline Matheny is the top attacker for Seton Hall, averaging 2.94 kills per set on the season and hitting a pretty robust .225 relative to what the team is doing as a whole. Part of SHU’s problems on offense in league matches is Matheny’s efficiency as an attacker, as she’s hitting just .189 over the past six matches. Jenna Walsh is second on the team in total attacks even after missing the first two matches of Big East play, and she’s averaging 2.64 kills per set. She is, however, only hitting .139 overall and just a little bit lower than that in the last four matches.
We can safely say that the setting will be handled by Maddie Klungel and Taylor Jakubowski, but we can’t say that they’re rotating in and out. Klungel averages 5.47 assists and Jakubowski is at 4.46 per set on the season, but neither woman has played in every set and, even more interestingly, Jakubowski has started seven times against 14 in 17 matches for Klungel. Jakubowski has only played in four Big East matches — she missed the first two — but she’s started in three of the last four while Klungel has started in five of the six contests. They’re apparently playing together, at least some of the time.
Anna Holland appears to be Seton Hall’s libero, but she hasn’t played in four sets in Big East play. Still, she’s averaging 4.12 digs in league matches when no one else is doing better than 2.6 per frame, so she’s clearly doing the most work back there. At the net, Asli Subasili and Hanna Tulli are both averaging more than a block per set, making them two of the five women in the Big East who can claim that. Of course, DePaul has two women averaging better than both Subasili and Tulli, and the Blue Demons blocked just one ball for a point in the entire three set match against Marquette last week.
Big East Match #8: at St. John’s Red Storm (13-5, 5-1 Big East)
Date: Saturday, October 14, 2023
Time: 4pm Central
Location: Carnesecca Arena, Jamaica, New York
Streaming: ESPN+, and no, I don’t know why this isn’t on FloSports, but congrats to you if you have ESPN+
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB
Marquette is 23-6 all time against St. John’s. The Golden Eagles have won 12 of the last 13 meetings including the last five encounters since the Red Storm won the 2019 Big East championship at the McGuire Center.
St. John’s didn’t end non-conference play very well. After starting off the year 8-2, including a loss to an Arizona State team that has since climbed into the top 25, they dropped a four-setter at home to then-#16 Arkansas after winning the first set 25-19. That’s not that big of a deal, Arkansas is good. However, they followed it up by winning the first set the following day against Buffalo, again at home, and then again dropping the next three sets. Buffalo’s good, they’re a top 80 RPI team at the moment, but that’s not how you want to wrap up your non-conference slate after securing just one top 100 victory otherwise.
But that hasn’t bothered them in Big East play, as they’ve beaten every unranked team that they’ve faced, and they’ve only needed a fourth set once in their five wins. Yes, they lost in Omaha to then-#16 Creighton in three sets. So what, lots of teams do that, it was one of their two hardest matches of the conference slate when the season started. Even better for the Red Storm: They might have lost to the Bluejays, but Marquette and Xavier have teamed up to do St. John’s a solid and thus the Red Storm are one game ahead of Creighton in the standings at the moment.
Erin Jones and Giorgia Walther give St. John’s a pretty potent 1-2 punch on offense. Jones averages 3.56 kills per set to lead the team, but Walther is right behind her at 3.11/set. Jones is getting it done a little bit better, as she’s hitting .245 on the year and Walther’s struggling through it at .128. Interestingly, Walther has only started 12 times in SJU’s 18 matches this season, so Marquette will have to keep an eye on how the Johnnies are rotating. One thing they won’t have to watch with that is the Red Storm’s setter as Wiktoria Kowalczyk averages 9.18 assists per set, sixth best in the Big East.
Rashanny Solano Smith is the libero, digging up balls at a 3.97 per set clip. Jones is the only other player on the roster above two digs a set, so the Red Storm are kind of dependent on Solano Smith in that regard. Magda Stambrowska has a slight edge on Ludovica Zola in terms of blocks per set, 0.80 to 0.79. The Johnnies are 8th in the Big East in blocks per set as a team, which is a big picture good thing for Marquette.