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RV Marquette Volleyball Preview: at Butler & at Xavier

The Golden Eagles venture back out onto the road with an eye on starting a new winning streak.

Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Okay, look.

No one’s excited that Marquette volleyball lost the fourth and fifth sets to St. John’s last Saturday, dropping the Golden Eagles into a tie with the Red Storm atop the Big East standings at 7-1.

But, while that might be true, it’s also true that this doesn’t change much about Marquette’s season. There are still 10 Big East matches left to play for both MU and the Johnnies, most notably this weekend for the Golden Eagles. On Saturday, they’ll play one of the three other teams in the entire conference that has a .500 or better record after eight matches, and as it happens, that team is currently one game behind MU in the standings at 6-2.

That means a chance for MU to open up their lead in the Big East standings, or at least the lead that they share with St. John’s for the time being. It also means a chance at an RPI top 75 road win, which swings us around to how the Golden Eagles are doing in that regard. As it turns out, St. John’s beating Marquette was kind of helpful to Marquette’s RPI. The win helps move the Johnnies from #61 to #45. That’s now a top 50 road loss, much easier to stomach in terms of an at-large selection profile. Sure, MU’s RPI dipped from #17 to #22, but that’s still a very manageable situation.

One thing to watch for Marquette this weekend: The play of Aubrey Hamilton. St. John’s was able to force her into an inefficient and error prone outing. Her seven errors are the most that she’s had since posting eight against Wisconsin on September 13th, and she’s never had more than eight all season. Her hitting percentage of .242 against the Johnnies snapped a run of 10 straight matches — dating back to a .148 against Wisconsin — where Hamilton hit at least .300, and it broke up a run of seven straight matches where Hamilton hit at least .340. Volleyball hitting percentage is a lot like baseball batting average in terms of figuring out what’s a good number, so you can get a quick idea of what was going on here. It wasn’t a bad match for Hamilton, just an off night... but when you mix in a .143 from Jenna Reitsma on 42 swings and a very slow day for Carsen Murray at .235 and the fact that Hamilton took 62 swings herself, the most attempts that she’s had all season...... well, you can see how an off night for her gets compounded as a problem and the Red Storm was able to squeeze out a win. It will be important for Marquette to find a way to put Hamilton back on track, but it won’t be easy as they fact the #4 and #5 hitting defenses in the Big East this weekend.

Big East Match #9: at Butler Bulldogs (9-10, 3-5 Big East)

Date: Friday, October 20, 2023
Time: 5pm Central
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Streaming: FloSports
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 19-9 all time against Butler. The series started with six straight Butler wins and MU was 1-6 all time against the Bulldogs when Butler joined the Big East. It’s been 18-3 since then. Marquette’s road win in the series last season extended their active winning streak in the series to five straight.

Butler comes into Friday night with losses in two of their last three contests. They swept Providence on the road in the middle of a home loss to St. John’s and a road loss to Connecticut. That’s dipped them back below .500 on the year after going 6-5 in non-conference matches, but starting Big East action with three straight losses. The Bulldogs have been trying to keep level at .500 since that three loss streak, but Marquette coming to town isn’t going to help, and DePaul on Saturday probably isn’t going to go along with the program, either.

Abby Maesch is Butler’s leading attacker on the year, or more accurately, most productive attacker. She’s adding 3.43 kills and 3.98 points per set on the year, but we have to point out that Maesch missed both of BU’s matches last weekend. It’s not that Butler is so much better without her — she’s only hitting .173 — but things start getting real thin in terms of options. Heck, with Mariah Grunze sitting at #2 on the kills chart with 3.41 per set and leading the team in total attacks but only hitting .189, it’s not like Butler has great options at hitter. That’s probably a good reason why they’re under .500 overall. All credit to Cora Taylor, because I have no idea how she’s averaging 10.51 assists per set with the team hitting .196 around her.

Jaymeson Kinley is doing her damnedest to get another all-Big East honor when this season wraps up. She’s averaging 5.09 digs per set this season, coming in just barely second in the Big East behind DePaul’s Rachel Krasowski. Grace Boggess is a fearsome blocker, ranking third in the Big East in blocks per set at 1.07, and she’s one of just seven women in the Big East averaging at least a block per frame.

Big East Match #10: at Xavier Musketeers (13-6, 6-2 Big East)

Date: Saturday, October 21, 2023
Time: 5pm Central
Location: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
Streaming: FloSports
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 19-9 all time against Xavier Musketeers, and 17-7 since MU moved to Division 1 competition. The Golden Eagles have won nine straight matches against the Musketeers, dropping just four sets across those matches since 2017.

The Musketeers are currently riding a three match losing streak, and they’ve got wins in four of the last five. The loss in there? That was to St. John’s, and that’s what’s currently keeping Xavier out of first place in the Big East. That and their 3-0 road loss to Villanova before the loss to the Red Storm, of course. Both of those losses came after their home win over Creighton — the loss to Nova was literally the very next match — so there’s a certain amount of wasted opportunity sitting in Xavier’s schedule right now. I can’t say for certain where they would be if they had snagged those two wins, but the fact of the matter is that Xavier sits at #75 in the RPI as through matches played on October 15th.... which means that there’s pretty much no chance of the Musketeers getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament now.

Emma Grace is Xavier’s top attacker in terms of kills per set and total swings. She’s at 2.59 kills per frame and her 441 attacks make her the only Musketeer with more than 380 on the year. Two things: She’s only hitting .136, which raises questions as to why she’s being allowed to take so many of Xavier’s swings, and she has missed some time recently. She only played in one set XU’s recent contests against Georgetown and St. John’s, but Grace has played in every set since then. Middle blocker Delaney Hogan is second on the team in kills at 2.51 and outside hitter Anna Taylor is at 2.26 per frame. I get why Hogan isn’t getting the ball more, that’s a function of being a middle..... but with Taylor hitting .233, it feels like she needs to get more opportunities. Carrigan O’Reilly is averaging just 8.36 assists per set, so perhaps Xavier is getting taken out of system an awful lot and everyone else defaults to sending it to Grace? I dunno.

Stevie Wolf is leading the way on defense with 3.88 digs per set, but there’s three more players — including O’Reilly — who average at least two digs per set as well. Hogan’s top of the charts in blocks at 0.72 per set, but as a team, Xavier is ranked ninth in the 11 team league in terms of blocks as a whole.