Marquette starts the Big East schedule off tonight in Chicago against DePaul, so it's a perfect opportunity to see what the rest of the conference has been doing this season. One thing that we know for sure is that St. John's and Xavier have already vaulted themselves into a first place tie with wins in their conference openers last night.
GoMarquette.com has been keeping track of conference volleyball stats, so I haven't been compiling my own. Unfortunately, it appears to only be updating once a week. When faced with the choice of compiling stats to be able to include rankings with each capsule, like with men's and women's soccer, or writing the capsules, the important information won out. I'm sure you'll be able to survive.
Record: 12-3, 0-1 Big East
Kills Leader: Belle Obert, 3.55/set
Assists Leader: Morgan Peterson, 9.59/set
Digs Leader: Brooke Ruffolo, 4.63/set
A great start to the season for the Bulldogs, as all three losses could have been expected. Pac-12 and Big Ten teams are always strong, so you can't fault Butler for losing to Arizona or Michigan State, and Xavier was picked to finish third in the Big East. Peterson and Ruffolo are leading the team in the same categories that they did last year. Two things to keep an eye on: Maggie Harbison, last year's kills leader, has only played in eight matches, including each of the last seven, and Erica Stahl was a preseason all-conference selection, mostly for her ability to come up with blocks.
AVCA Ranking: 23
Kills Leader: Leah McNary, 3.11/set
Assists Leader: Michelle Sicner, 10.20/set
Digs Leader: Kate Elman, 3.62/set
McNary and Elman are the same stat leaders from last season, and Sicner has outperformed 2012 Missouri Valley Player Of The Year Megan Bober, at least from an assists perspective. The Jays started out the season 7-1, but are 2-2 in their last four. While that sounds bad, it's worth noting that they moved UP a slot in the AVCA poll after the first loss, which was to #11 UCLA, and held tight at #23 following a loss to #7 Hawaii. Middle blocker Lauren Smith has been the only player to be able wrest control of the Freshman Of The Week honors from Marquette's Autumn Bailey.
Kills Leader: Vesela Zapryanova, 3.96/set
Assists Leader: Colleen Smith, 10.44/set
Digs Leader: Allyson Rooks, 3.56/set
It's not surprising to see Zapryanova leading the Blue Demon attack, as she was a preseason all-conference honoree. It *is* surprising to see DePaul entering the conference schedule undefeated and off to the best start in program history. None of the names on the schedule are going to make you jump out of your seat - I mean, they beat Providence, and the Friars refuse to play volleyball in the Big East for competitive reasons - but they've only dropped six sets all year. The season's only four weeks old, but DePaul's still managed to get two different players, Zapryanova and right side hitter Abbie Fleener, named Player Of The Week.
Kills Leader: Lauren Saar, 3.11/set
Assists Leader: Caitlin Braunels, 9.77/set
Digs Leader: MacKenzie Simpson, 3.89/set
Hey, here's some good news! The Hoyas are undefeated at home! One match, one win over George Washington! That's something, right? Last season, Alex Johnson was third in the Big East in kills, so far this season, she's only third on her own team. Dani White has proven she deserved preseason all-conference honors with one weekly honor roll appearance so far this season.
Record: 12-5, 1-0 Big East
Kills Leader: Karin Palgutova, 4.48/set
Assists Leader: Deniz Mutlugil, 10.07/set
Digs Leader: Shawna-Lei Santos, 4.53/set
Back on Monday, Palgutova was ranked 18th in the country in kills, and she boosted her average with 27 kills in five sets against Seton Hall last night. Bad news: Seton Hall's lousy and it took the Red Storm five sets to dispatch them. There's nothing particularly exciting in the win or loss column for St. John's, but given the state of the Big East in volleyball, you have to be pleased to see a team with a Player Of The Year candidate developing.
Record: 5-7, 0-1 Big East
Kills Leader: Amanda Hansen, 2.33/set
Assists Leader: Shelbey Manthorpe, 8.13/set
Digs Leader: Alyssa Warren, 4.58/set
Can you believe this team was picked to finish fourth in the league? Of course, they have lost four matches in five sets, and given how much I don't like the 15 point fifth set, I suppose I can't be terribly bothered by that. They have been testing themselves as well, with five non-conference matches coming against opponents from the SEC, Pac 12, AAC, and ACC. Seeing Shelbey Manthorpe's name reminds me that she was named to the Big East Honor Roll six times in 2012, and it made me think "But Seton Hall's not any good" every time I looked her total.
Kills Leader: Lauren Carpenter, 3.47/set
Assists Leader: Emma Pettit, 10.59/set
Digs Leader: Mariah Henley, 5.06/set
The Wildcats have won their last four matches to get themselves moving in a positive direction heading into Big East play. They suffered early season losses to Oregon State, Nebraska, and Maryland, so they've been tested while struggling to a 4-5 start. Freshman Michaela Berendt might be the most accurate hitter in the Big East so far this season. Through Sunday's matches, she was ranked 4th in the conference in hitting percentage at .365, but she had the most kills and most attacks out of everyone ranked in the top 10.
Record: 8-6, 1-0 Big East
Kills Leader: Abbey Bessler, 3.37/set
Assists Leader: Aubree Smith, 10.83/set
Digs Leader: Lauren Metzger, 3.75/set
This season *was* going just fine for the Musketeers. 7-3, losses to Michigan and Ohio State, that's fine, right? Sure, the Duquesne loss wasn't super, but they were conference rivals for years in the Atlantic 10, and anything can happen when teams have a bit of familiarity. Then the UC Irvine Invitational happened. Xavier followed up the loss to Ohio State by heading out to California and dropping their next three matches to drag their season record to 7-6. Ugly. They rebounded with a 3-1 win over Butler last night to open conference play, so they're in first place for the time being. Middle blocker Alex Smith is one of three players to have already earned two Weekly Honor Roll slots, so it seems that she's headed towards the postseason version of the preseason all-Big East honors that she earned.