Marquette volleyball is playing Wednesday and Sunday this week, which is a liiiiiiiitle far apart to fold both previews in together. Besides, given who awaits the Golden Eagles on Sunday, it makes a little bit of sense to blow that one out into a separate preview when we get there in order to talk about the ramifications of the visit to Omaha.
But for now, we get to focus on Wednesday night’s match, and it’s not an insignificant one for Marquette. After all, a win on the road against DePaul will clinch a top five finish in the league for the Golden Eagles. It’s the only match of the day, but with Marquette in first place at 11-1, DePaul in sixth place at 6-6, and Seton Hall in seventh at 5-7, things can change quickly with one more victory. With just six Big East matches left to go right now, a Marquette win over the Blue Demons means they couldn’t finish with more than six losses in the league…. And it drops the Blue Demons to seven losses. Ta-da, that’s locking up a top five finish, locking both DePaul and Seton Hall behind them AND clinching one of the Big East’s six conference tournament berths in one fell swoop.
Or perhaps 75 fell swoops.
We probably should acknowledge the fact of the matter about Wednesday, right? Marquette needs to get one more win to lock in the importance of Sunday’s match against Creighton. It would be much more preferable to go into that contest with a lead in the standings over the Bluejays as opposed to tied with them. The Blue Demons forced Marquette to five sets in Chicago last season, so it’s not entirely weird to think that they could do it again this year, and any match that goes to a fifth set is a toss up. Focus and determination is the name of the game.
With this match coming just four days after the last time we saw the Golden Eagles in action, I don’t expect to see Yadhira Anchante back in uniform for MU. She was on the bench on Saturday, but not dressed to play and not taking part in any athletic activities. There’s no reason to think that she’ll be cleared from her appendix issue between Saturday and now, which means Ella Foti will be back at setter for the fifth straight match. Things have been going pretty well for Foti as MU’s distributor, and perhaps that slight change in how MU operates will throw Wednesday night’s foe a bit of a curveball.
Big East Match #13: at DePaul Blue Demons (13-10, 6-6 Big East)
Marquette is 38-29 all time against DePaul, but that’s a little misleading. MU went 2-4 against the Blue Demons before officially becoming a Division 1 program in 1986. So it’s 36-25 in Division 1 since 1986, and even that’s misleading. Marquette is currently on a 25 match winning streak against DePaul dating all the way back to the 2009 season after getting a 3-0 win in Milwaukee earlier this season.
DePaul went into a bit of a skid following their matinee/Field Trip Day loss to Marquette back on October 4th. Part of that is not their fault, as the schedule gods sent them back home to face Creighton three days later, but a 3-0 loss to the Bluejays doesn’t mean that the Blue Demons also have to get swept by St. John’s AND fall in five sets to Seton Hall. DePaul needed extra points to push that match to a fifth set as the Pirates fended off set point twice in the fourth. In the fifth, DePaul had to fend off match point twice on either side of putting SHU’s back up against the wall before Seton Hall finally knocked them down, 19-17.
That dropped them to 3-5 in Big East play, which is kind of a bummer because I liked the level of fight that DePaul was showing to Marquette at the McGuire Center. As you can see from the record, they’ve turned things around over the last four contests, going 3-1 with wins over Xavier, Connecticut, and Providence but taking a five set loss to Butler in Indianapolis. That one came in the form of a reverse sweep after being tied at 22 in the third, up 21-20 in the fourth, and serving for match point, 14-13, in the fifth. Still, they won their last two, getting 3-1 victories over the same teams that Marquette swept last weekend thanks to the travel partner schedule system.
Jill Pressly was the name to know heading into the Milwaukee end of this series this season, she was the name to know during that match, and she’s still the name you have to know heading into Wednesday night. She led DePaul with 12 kills and 41 attacks at the McGuire Center, and that’s nearly twice as many swings as anyone else on the roster. She only hit .171, which tells you an awful lot about 1) how much DePaul just kept feeding her and 2) how much Marquette was able to counter her. No one else who got onto the court for the Blue Demons in that game hit over .100, which is how they ended up hitting, and this is not a joke nor a typo, -.009 for all three sets. Pressly averages over 4.6 kills per set and is hitting .212 for the season, so holding to just .171 and only 4 kills per set is quite the accomplishment for the MU defense.
DePaul has two of the best blockers in the conference when you look at season long averages. Katelynn Oxley leads the entire league at 1.13 per set, while Megan Scholz is not that far behind her at 1.05 per frame. Here’s the thing about that: In the first meeting, Marquette limited DePaul to just 1 block, a combo between Scholz and Pressly. Part of that lack of cutting off MU attacks might have to do with the fact that Oxley didn’t play against the Golden Eagles. She did play in all eight sets last weekend, and she had seven assisted blocks across the two matches. If she’s able to go against MU this time around, that could have an impact on how Marquette’s attackers approach their efforts.