Wanna hear something fun?
It’s clinching season!
This weekend, Marquette volleyball will play their 11th and 12th matches of the Big East schedule. If they win both of them, they will clinch finishing better than both of the two teams they’re playing, who are currently in a tie for last in the league. To flip it around: Marquette can eliminate two teams from the title race with six (or seven!) matches to go. Part of this is Marquette standing alone in first place in the Big East at 9-1. Part of this is also the other two teams losing eight of their first 10 conference matches.
The big question for the weekend is whether or not setter Yadhira Anchante will be returning to the lineup. On one hand, before she missed the Butler and Xavier matches this past weekend, Marquette said that she was day to day, which implies that she could easily be back in the lineup a week later. On the other hand, the reason why she was out was listed as “(appendix),” and generally speaking, that means an appendectomy was necessary. Even with advances in modern medicine, it seems unlikely that Anchante will be available a week later, right? At the very least, it feels like leaping in the air and stretching your arms over your head is bad for someone who recently had an abdomen incision, right?
With that said, Marquette was able to handle their business with Anchante and her 9.54 assists per set over the weekend, sweeping both Butler and Xavier. The Xavier win was a little bit more important, as Xavier had come into Friday night just one game behind the Golden Eagles in the Big East standings. That statement didn’t hold up until Saturday night because the Musketeers lost to DePaul to help MU open up some extra space in the standings, but it was still a road match against a team in the top half of the standings. The more notable part about all of it is that MU didn’t know that Anchante wasn’t going to Indianapolis with them until right before they departed on Thursday. They had almost zero prep time for their new game plan without her, almost no time to figure out how things would change with Ella Foti sliding over to be the full time setter.
And they still won six straight sets, all on the road.
Now they’ll be at home with some time to adjust and practice, in case Anchante is out for at least another week, squaring off against the two teams tied for last place right now. That sounds like a recipe for two wins, but it’s up to the Golden Eagles to make sure that they pull all the ingredients together and produce what the recipe intends.
Big East Match #11: vs Providence Friars (8-14, 2-8 Big East)
Marquette is a perfect 18-0 all time against Providence. In fact, since this series started in 1999 and then resumed in 2014 when the Friars started playing volleyball in the Big East, Marquette is 54-2 in sets against Providence, and both of the two losses were in the first ever meeting.
Providence had a nice little bounce back from dropping to 0-4 in Big East play when Marquette swept them back on October 1st. They won their next two contests, going out on the road and beating both Georgetown and Villanova in five sets on consecutive days. Y’all can read and count, so you have figured out that they haven’t won since. They followed up those nailbiters with four straight losses, including sweeps at the hands of Butler, Xavier, and Creighton. Those last two have a bit of “well, whatcha gonna do about it,” given XU and CU’s relative position in the standings, not to mention the Bluejays’ national ranking.
In the first meeting in Rhode Island, Providence’s offense went about the way you thought it would. Shaliyah Rhoden is PC’s kills leader on the year, and she led the Friars against Marquette with nine kills. However, Marquette held Rhoden to just .120 hitting while holding the whole team to .130. Rhoden is a .243 hitter on the season, which isn’t too bad, all things considered. If MU can get six errors out of her again, things are going to go pretty smoothly on Friday night.
Kayla Grant also does a lot of good work for Providence, and she went for seven kills on 12 swings, posting herself as the most efficient PC attacker in that match. PC also went to Jiji Lykins for 25 swings in that match, tying Rhoden for the team lead there. Lykins is only averaging 0.23 kills per set this season while playing in all 82 sets, but she registered five against the Golden Eagles. This might have been because Macy Taylor, who has the second best kills average on the team, played in just one set against MU and attempted just three attacks. Taylor and her 2.49 kills/set average have been A-OK since then, so we’ll see if she gets more action against MU this time around.
Big East Match #12: vs Connecticut Huskies (7-15, 2-8 Big East)
Marquette is 13-3 all time against UConn. The Golden Eagles have won 10 straight meetings including beating the Huskies in a sweep in the 2022 Big East tournament semifinals. The 3-1 match in Storrs earlier this season snapped a run of four straight sweeps for the Golden Eagles.
Marquette’s 3-1 win over Connecticut dropped the Huskies to 0-3 in Big East play, and that streak would eventually hit seven in a row before they snapped it. On October 14th, they beat Butler at home, 3-1, and then followed that up with a 3-1 win over Providence to register their first wins since beating Binghamton back on September 16th. They are coming off a 3-0 sweep loss against a MASH unit of a Creighton team in their most recent contest, and UConn will visit DePaul on Friday night before coming up to Milwaukee, so they might be 2-9 by the time we get to Saturday night.
In the first meeting, UConn leaned heavily on Emma Werkmeister, giving her 45 of their 139 swings in the match. This isn’t terribly surprising, but it is a heavier lift of the offense than she usually gets. In any case, it wasn’t really working, even though Werkmeister had 12 kills. That’s a kill rate of .267, which is pretty good.... but seven errors meant she hit just .111 across four sets. Cera Powell ended up leading the team with 13 kills, and with just two errors, she hit .297 in the match. That’s a great day for Powell, who averages just 2.22 kills and hits .173 on the season. Will we see an adjustment from the Huskies towards something that worked well for them in the first meeting?
Speaking of adjustments, it’s possible that MU head coach Ryan Theis saw an adjustment to make against the Huskies in the first set and made it. UConn won the first frame in the first meeting, 25-19, and they hit .424 to get there. The rest of the match? Just .075. If MU can find a way to induce that kind of problem from the Huskies for another three sets — they had 19 errors after just two in the first set — then that’s probably going to do Marquette a lot of favors on Saturday.