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Volleyball heads to Sunshine State for a trio of matches

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Photo by Valeria Cardenas/valeria.cardenas@marquette.edu

Photo by Valeria Cardenas/valeria.cardenas@marquette.edu

After a 3-1 weekend at the Marquette Invitational during which the Marquette women’s volleyball team suffered a defeat to Rice, the team lost all of its votes in this week’s AVCA poll.

Fortunately, the schedule has gifted the Golden Eagles (6-3) the chance to regain credibility at the Campus USA Credit Union Invite in Gainesville, Fla. with matches against No. 7 Florida, Central Florida and Jacksonville.

The Gators present Marquette with an instant opportunity to vault back into the rankings in a true road game Friday. Florida has started the year 5-2, with its losses coming against No. 6 Florida State and No. 2 Texas.

Florida is the highest-ranked team Marquette has played this year. Previously, the Golden Eagles lost a heartbreaking match in five sets to then-No. 8 Florida State. The Gators also swept Marquette in 2013 at the Al McGuire Center.

Florida coach Mary Wise, in her 24th year in Gainesville, has a .895 career winning percentage for the juggernaut program. This year, the Gators boast a strong offensive attack, led by five hitters with more than two kills per set (sophomore right side hitter Alex Holston has 3.19 per frame to lead the team). The offense runs through all-American setter Mackenzie Dagostino, who averages an impressive 11.00 assists per set.

While the match provides Marquette a great opportunity, a win here would be a massive surprise.

Marquette also plays UCF and Jacksonville Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The Knights (7-3) started the season 6-0 before losing to top opposition like Texas, Kansas State and Arizona.

UCF’s go-to offensive player is top outside hitter, sophomore Jale Hervey. Hervey leads the team with 3.72 kills per set and also contributes 2.34 digs as a six-rotation player. Senior libero Jade Hayes is perhaps the team’s best player, as she averages over five digs per set. The Knights use a setter by committee approach like Marquette, with redshirt senior Marie Reiterova and junior Dana Faught sharing time.

Jacksonville (6-4) should also provide Marquette with a solid road test. The Dolphins, winners of their last four, may count the Golden Eagles as their toughest competition this season.

Junior outside hitter Sammie Strausbaugh is the focal point of the offense for the Dolphins, and her 4.80 kills per set lead the team by far. She also kicks in 3.17 digs per set, which ranks second on the team behind senior libero Mayara Prestes at 5.45. Junior setter Jizzian Gesualdo averages 9.86 assists per set.

Both matches could test Marquette, but it should expect to win both for at least a 2-1 weekend.

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