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2023 Big East Volleyball Tournament Semifinals Preview: #2 Marquette vs #3 St. John’s

The Golden Eagles and the Red Storm square off in a season series rubber match with a spot in Saturday’s title game on the line.

NCAA Basketball: Merrimack at St. John Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

2023 Big East Volleyball Tournament

Semifinals

#2 Marquette Golden Eagles (20-9, 16-2 Big East) vs #3 St. John’s Red Storm (22-9, 13-5 Big East)

Date: Friday, November 24, 2023
Time: 12:30pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloSports, with Bob Brainerd and Michelle Griffin-Wenzel on the call
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Blue Sky Updates: @AnonymousEagle
Tickets: Still available

All-Time Series: Marquette leads 24-7 with wins in 13 of the last 15 meetings.
Season Series: Split 1-1 with each team winning at home

It has not been a 100% pleasant season for Marquette. They started out the year with just four wins in their first 11 matches, largely because the Golden Eagles took on what am fairly certain is the most difficult non-conference schedule that I’ve ever seen the program play. It contained five teams in the current RPI top 10 and three more in the RPI top 25. MU went 2-8 against that slate.

One of the reasons that they struggled has to be the fact that middle blocker Carsen Murray missed the first weekend of the season with an injury and we have to presume that she might not have been 100% for the second weekend. The medical fun continued during Big East play when Yadhira Anchante missed three matches after an appendix issue, and right now, Ella Foti’s availability is up in the air after she was on the sideline on Senior Night with her hand and several fingers wrapped up.

And yet, Marquette still went 16-2 in Big East play, falling in five sets on the road against St. John’s and getting swept at Creighton as the only losses in the league. That was good enough to hold on to a share of a regular season conference title, the third straight year that MU has not only won a regular season Big East crown but also tied with Creighton for said title.

Tiebreakers — Creighton went 1-0 against St. John’s, Marquette went 1-1 — give the Bluejays the top seed in the conference tournament. That makes Marquette the #2 seed, and after Wednesday afternoon, that gives the Golden Eagles a third go-round with the Red Storm.

St. John’s swept #6 seeded Villanova in the first round of the conference tournament on Wednesday at the McGuire Center. The scores make it look close — Villanova hit 18 points in the first set and 19 in #2 and #3 — but underlying numbers make it look much more emphatically in SJU’s favor. The Red Storm hit .316 in the match, and nine blocks by the Johnnies helped limit the Wildcats to just .111 hitting and never above .160 in any single set. St. John’s did have to rally from down 18-16 in the second set to win there, but there’s a difference between “rallied to win” and “scored nine of the final 10 points of the set to come from behind,” and the second thing is what happened.

Marquette and St. John’s are relatively familiar with each other at this point of the season, as they just squared off last week Friday at the McGuire Center. That contest was a very close battle, with SJU tallying 22 points in two of the three sets in a 3-0 Marquette sweep. The first set had a big point swing in each direction before it stayed close the rest of the way. Marquette smashed off nine straight points to go from down 17-16 to win 25-17, and that enthusiasm carried through to the third set where MU went up 16-8. St. John’s ran off eight straight to tie the game and then went up 21-19 before the Golden Eagles scored five straight out of a timeout and 6-1 to close the match down.

Marquette’s offense was not clicking well in that match as the Golden Eagles hit just .213, but they held the Red Storm under .100 in two of the three frames and to just .158 in the other one. MU didn’t really have an answer for Erin Jones, who led SJU in kills with 12 and hit .333 in the match. The Golden Eagles were able to turn off the offense from Eleonora Tosi (5 each in kills and errors on 24 swings), Giorgia Walther (.107 hitting on a team high 28 swings), and Lucrezia Lodi (negative hitting on 19 swings), but the flip side of that is that St. John’s spread their offense around, thus making it a little bit harder to figure out where they might go on any give attack. Against Villanova, it was Jones and Lodi leading the way with 12 kills each, and both women hit over .250, led by a .370 outing from Lodi.

The winner of this contest goes on to Saturday’s Big East title match, which will be at 1pm Central on FS2. The other half of the matchup will come from the other semifinal, where #1 Creighton faces #5 DePaul after the Blue Demons beat #4 Xavier in four sets in the first round on Wednesday. That Creighton/DePaul semifinal is scheduled to start at 3pm Central time on Friday, and FloSports will have the streaming broadcast there.