On Monday morning, we were looking at a very interesting three-way title race in the Big East volleyball standings. Creighton beat Marquette to pull the Bluejays into a tie with not just the Golden Eagles but also with St. John’s at 12-2 in conference matches with four matches left to play for everyone.
On Wednesday, that changed.
On Wednesday, St. John’s went over to South Orange to face Seton Hall, their travel partner. They went back to Queens after getting swept, 3-0, and hitting in negative numbers for two of the three sets. They’re now 12-3 and have to play Creighton and Marquette in their next two matches before closing the regular season with DePaul in Chicago.
With both of MU’s matches against Creighton in the rear view mirror, the Golden Eagles are now in control of whether or not they snag at least a share of the Big East regular season title for a third straight season. All they have to do is match the Bluejays’ record over the final four matches of the regular season. If they do better than Creighton — CU visits St. John’s on Saturday, and that’s the site of one of MU’s two losses on the season — then Marquette will be the outright league champion.
It’s that simple.
At least, the math is that simple.
It’s hard to look at MU’s 3-0 loss to Creighton on Sunday, a match where MU scored in the single digits in a set for the only time this season, and not think that there’s some problems that need to be corrected. How much of Marquette’s struggles are because they got used to playing without Yadhira Anchante as she missed time after appendix issues but returned to the lineup against the Bluejays? If that’s the case, how much of this week’s practices have shaken off the rust of the relationship between setter and hitters?
If not outright problems to be fixed on the fly, then there’s the issue of merely having their confidence shaken by getting run out of DJ Sokol Arena in what was clearly circled on the calendar at the start of the season as a pivotal match relative to MU’s title chances. How does head coach Ryan Theis manage his team’s mindset after their worst loss of the season, at least performance-wise, particularly when the Golden Eagles’ non-conference record has left MU with very little margin of error relative to qualifying for the NCAA tournament in a few weeks.
The only way we can figure all of this out is by watching some volleyball, and that’s what’s on deck with Marquette’s final road trip of the regular season.
Before we go any further, I want to talk about whatever nonsense Georgetown is being allowed to get away with here. For some reason, the Hoyas get to be special and NOT put their home contest here on FloSports like everyone else in the league. They’re getting to put it on their private internal streaming system and rake up all the cash they can on their own from that. I don’t know how to tell you this, Georgetown, but even if I didn’t have tickets for the men’s basketball game against Rider, there’s absolutely no chance in hell that I’m making an extra payment to watch Marquette here just because you think you’re special. You’re not, knock it off, and to whoever in the league office is letting them do this, you’re not half as cute or smart as you think you are.
Big East Match #15: at Georgetown Hoyas (13-13, 4-10 Big East)
Date: Friday, November 10, 2023
Time: 6pm Central
Location: McDonough Arena, Washington, D.C.
Streaming: HoyaVision, which is going to cost you $7 for a 24 hours pass.
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB
Marquette is 22-4 all time against Georgetown. The Golden Eagles have not lost to the Hoyas since 2010, which was the last time they lost on the road in this series. MU has won each of the last 18 encounters and has lost just three sets in that time. MU has dropped just one set to GU in the last ten matches.
Georgetown is on the verge of being eliminated from the Big East tournament.
That can’t happen here in this match. Georgetown’s next loss will mean the best they can do is tie for sixth place, as they are currently three games behind sixth place Villanova with four matches to go. Yes, Marquette ends up going to Villanova for their very next match which could end up being beneficial to the Hoyas, but their chances at the post season are kiiiiiiinda riding on picking up this win in this match.
The reason why Georgetown’s in this situation? They recently lost seven straight matches. Did they lose to Creighton twice in there and drop a home date to St. John’s? Sure, but that’s seven of their 10 Big East losses right there. They are coming into the weekend off a road win against Butler, but that nearly went sideways on them, too. Georgetown won the first set and then lost the next two to fall behind 2-1. They had to win the fourth just to get to a fifth set where they prevailed 15-11.
In the first match between these two teams, way back in the second match of league play on September 23rd, Peyton Wilhite was the top attacker for Georgetown, converting 28 attacks into 10 kills and a hitting percentage of .250 on the night. Not too bad, definitely way better than what Mary Grace Goyena (6 kills, .042) and Grace Albaugh (3 kills, -.143) gave the Hoyas. Those three are the top attackers on the Georgetown roster this season, both in terms of kills per set and total swings. Goyena is actually the kills/set leader at 3.18, while Lee-Caracci is usually the most accurate attacker as she’s hitting .343 on the season.
Big East Match #16: at Villanova Wildcats (16-10, 7-7 Big East)
Marquette is 23-4 all time against Villanova. The Golden Eagles are currently on a 10 match winning streak against the Wildcats after sweeping them in Milwaukee earlier this season. The road winning streak in the series is at three straight after a five set defeat in 2017.
Villanova comes into the weekend half a game behind fifth place Seton Hall in the Big East standings after the Pirates picked up a somewhat shocking 3-0 sweep of St. John’s in their midweek meeting. The top six teams qualify for the conference tournament, and as luck would have it for the Wildcats, they’ll be tangling with seventh place DePaul (6-8) on Friday night. That match won’t have the ability to clinch a spot in or out of the field for either side, not with the Blue Demons just one game back, but it does present a fantastic opportunity for Villanova to create some space in the standings. Not only that, but they can’t count on getting a win against Marquette, not whilst on a 10 match losing streak against the Golden Eagles, so they’ll really need to beat DePaul if they want to make the tournament and get to Milwaukee.
Seems like a good time to mention that DePaul won the match in Chicago in five sets.
Marquette and Villanova met for the first time this season in the first match of Big East play for both sides. That one was handily won by the Golden Eagles as VU scored 18 points in the first set and never matched that number in the next two frames. No one could really be said to have played well for the Wildcats, not with the team hitting .116 on the night, but Abby Harrell was the kills leader with nine on 30 attacks. She also committed seven errors and only hit .067 as a result.
That was clearly an off night for her, as she’s averaging 3.30 kills per set this season and hitting .180. That hitting percentage isn’t great, but it’s not like head coach Josh Steinbach can give swings to Skylar Gerhardt and her .184 conversion rate and make things better. Kiera Booth falls in between those two in terms of kills per set at 2.55 and she is hitting .322, but she’s nearly 200 attacks behind Gerhardt and even more behind Harrell. Ah, the life of a middle blocker.