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#19 Marquette Volleyball Preview: The Kansas Invitational

The challenges for the Golden Eagles start ramping up from what they experienced in the first week of the season.

Arkansas v Kansas Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Cards on the table time, kids: Marquette volleyball did not do a very good job hitting the ball this past weekend.

As a team, Marquette hit just .184, and even though they went 2-1 at the Flyer Invitational, that means they got outhit because they allowed their opponents to hit .212 overall. Drilling down in specific, Marquette’s top three attackers had a very not good weekend. Jenna Reitsma and Ella Foti both hit under .130, while Aubrey Hamilton, who is one swing behind Reitsma for the team lead there, hit a much better but still not super great .218. For comparison’s sake, in 2022, Foti hit .306, Hamilton hit .247, and Reitsma hit .210.

The fact of the matter for 2023 always was that Marquette was going to be best served by Reitsma and Hamilton becoming more efficient attackers than they were last season. It can not be a surprise to anyone that Marquette was very much on the struggle bus this past weekend because their hitters got worse than they were last year, not better.

There is a question raised by both Marquette’s hitting percentage being low and the opponents hitting percentage being high, or at least higher than MU’s. The question is simple: How much do the Golden Eagles miss Carsen Murray? Murray averaged 2.28 kills while hitting .416 last season, and on top of that, she also added just over a block per set as well. Defenses had to take account for Murray at all times, and her leaping ability also gave the offense a boost thanks to Murray’s talent at going up to get an overpass and smash it back down. Offenses had to account for her at all times, as Murray had 21 solo blocks last season to go with the 100 times that she partnered up with a teammate to stuff a shot for a point.

Murray was unavailable for Marquette due to an undisclosed injury that had her in a walking boot at the open scrimmage the Sunday before the season started. The good news is that Murray wasn’t in that boot on Saturday as Marquette defeated Dayton in five sets. The bad news is that we still don’t know how close she is to being able to play this season. It’s a delicate balance for head coach Ryan Theis. Do you want Murray to play when the doctors say it’s fine, or would you rather her take an extra week off for recovery so she’s even better for the rest of the season? Might that mean we see less of Carsen Murray down the road this season, as a healthy chunk of Big East play will have the Golden Eagles squaring off against teams that are definitely not as good as the three teams MU faced in Ohio this past weekend?

Or can all of Marquette’s problems just be chalked up to “it’s opening weekend, it’s live fire against real opponents, they had some things to shake out of their system and they did that and only took a loss to a ranked team on a neutral floor”? Will things be a little bit better going forward, even if Murray isn’t available again? Hopefully the answer is yes, because Marquette’s next two matches shape up to be a bit more difficult than the competition that they played against last weekend.....

Match #4: vs #25 Purdue Boilermakers (1-2)

Date: Friday, September 1, 2023
Time: 3pm Central
Location: Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena, Lawrence, Kansas
Streaming: Maybe?
Live Stats: Maybe?
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 0-3 all time against Purdue. The first meeting came back in 1999 in West Lafayette, the second came as part of an event hosted by Kansas of all teams in 2002, and the most recent meeting was in the second round of the 2019 NCAA tournament.

I suspect that if Purdue Volleyball was a singular sentient entity, and you said “hey, Purdue Volleyball, how did your first weekend of the season go,” the entity would respond something to the effect of “it sucked.” With all of these matches happening in Purdue’s gym, this is what happened, in order, to the preseason #16 team in the country:

  • Took four sets to beat a Duke team picked to finish 7th in the ACC and coming off a 16-13 season
  • Got swept by #18 Creighton, the first time that Purdue had been swept at home in non-conference play since 2016
  • Lost in five sets to Loyola Chicago, the preseason favorite in the Atlantic 10 after the Ramblers recorded the most wins in 20 years last season and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005

None of those things are things that the #16 team in the country should be doing on their home court, I think we can agree on that. If nothing else, the AVCA poll voters agreed that those things mean that Purdue isn’t the #16 team in the country any more. They did hang on to enough points to stay in the top 25, but given that they’ll play Marquette and Kansas this week, it’s safe to say that their hold on a ranking is tenuous at best right now.

The good news from a previewing perspective is that Purdue has played 12 sets already this season, so we’re starting to trend away from small sample sizes to start the season. The Boilermakers are funneling their offense through Chloe Chicoine and Eva Hudson through three matches, as the pair have combined for 276 of Purdue’s 416 swings so far this season. As you could expect, it’s not working so great, as Chicoine is htting .219 and Hudson is hitting .169. They’re averaging 4.00 and 3.33 kills per set respectively, but as mentioned, that’s a bit of a compilation situation right now.

It appears that Purdue’s in the middle of figuring some things out with their setting, as Lorrin Poulter has played in nine sets and Taylor Anderson has appeared in six. This has resulted in Poulter averaging 8.89 assists/set, and Anderson’s chipping in 5.5 per frame. Both women are new to the roster this fall as Poulter is a grad transfer from Denver and Anderson is a freshman, albeit one of the best setter recruits in the country. For whatever it’s worth to you, the three sets that Poulter didn’t play were the last three sets of the Loyola Chicago contest. We’ll have to wait to see if that was tactics by head coach Dave Shondell or injury related.

Purdue gets a lot of digs across the board, but Maddie Schermerhorn leads the way with 4.42 per set in this still young season. Grace Heaney has the team lead in blocks per set with 1.20, but she has only played in five sets, and she’s the only player north of 0.90 blocks at this point of the year.

Match #5: at #23 Kansas Jayhawks (2-0)

Date: Saturday, September 2, 2023
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena, Lawrence, Kansas
Streaming: ESPN+, allegedly
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB

Marquette is 0-4 all time against Kansas. The two sides first met in 1990, in an event hosted by Western Illinois, while the most recent contest was in 2015 when Kansas was ranked #22 in the country, and that one came as part of an event hosted by Wyoming. All four contests have been 3-0 sweeps for the Jayhawks.

After a 19-11 season ended last year with a trip to the second round of the NCAA tournament, Kansas started this year just barely outside the top 25. As you can see, they have now made their way into the rankings, but they were benefitting more from upheaval in the poll than anything else. No one is going to confuse 3-0 wins over Pepperdine and Nebraska-Omaha at UNO’s barn for the world’s greatest start to the season. Still, the fact of the matter is that Kansas is still undefeated on the season, and that has to go for something, at least for the time being. They might not be undefeated by the time this match on Saturday rolls around, as the Jayhawks are squaring off with Purdue on Thursday night. At worst, it gives Marquette some up to the minute game film on Kansas, although I don’t know how fast the Golden Eagles will be able to make use of it given their Friday afternoon match against the Boilermakers.

Six sets into the year, Kansas has a pair of attackers averaging at least four kills per set. Ayah Elnady is at the top of the heap at 4.33 per frame, while Reagan Cooper is at exactly 4.00. They’re both hitting over .320, with Cooper coming in at over .400 on her 49 swings so far on the year. London Davis and Toyosi Onabanjo are both north of two kills per set, so the Jayhawks have some quality secondary options as well.

Camryn Turner does the setting for Kansas, and at 11.67 per set so far this season, she’s doing a hell of a job. Thanks to aces, blocks, and kills, she’s also averaging nearly a point and a half per set on top of that. Surprisingly, Turner is also north of four digs per set, which is pretty hard to do when you’re handing out nearly 12 assists per set. She’s not leading the team there, as that honor goes to Raegan Burns at 4.67 digs/set. Marquette’s hitters are going to have to pay attention to the location of Mykayla Myers when she’s on the court. She’s averaging 1.17 blocks per set, and no one else on the roster is north of 0.70.