Marquette Wire

Crucial weekend ahead in BIG EAST volleyball title race

MU plays weekend set at Georgetown and BIG EAST leader Creighton

Andrew Goldstein, andrew.goldstein@marquette.edu

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Marquette volleyball has a chance to put itself back in the BIG EAST title race this weekend, but could also take itself almost completely out of it.

The Golden Eagles will complete the second leg of their four-game road trip this weekend when they take on the Georgetown Hoyas on Friday night in Washington, and the BIG EAST-leading Creighton Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon in Omaha, Nebraska. Marquette holds a 3-2 conference record, while Georgetown is 1-3 in BIG EAST play and Creighton is a perfect 4-0.

“It’s always going to be a challenge on the road,” Marquette head coach Ryan Theis said. “Two games on a weekend, flights are involved, buses are involved, and we’re facing two good opponents.”

Marquette will have a chance to alleviate their problems with slow starts when they take on the Hoyas on Friday. Georgetown is hitting only .186 on the year and their only conference victory came against the last-place Providence Friars. The Hoyas’ 18.3 percent error rate should also provide some relief for a Marquette team that is prone to defensive slip-ups.

“We haven’t been successful on Fridays,” Theis said. “I’m more concerned right now about Georgetown than I am Creighton.”

The Friday match in Washington, though certainly important, will merely be an undercard to Marquette’s most important match to date, the Sunday match at D.J. Sokol Arena against the Creighton Blue Jays. Creighton was picked to win the BIG EAST before the season started, and they have lived up to that prediction so far. The Blue Jays have won 12 of their last 15 sets en route to an unblemished conference record.

“They’ve got good players, they’ve got a great system, and their coach does a wonderful job,” Theis said of the Blue Jays. “Creighton cares about volleyball, and they do it right.”

Creighton middle blocker Lauren Smith may be the most troublesome element that the Golden Eagles will have to contend with on Sunday. The junior from Lincoln, Nebraska, is averaging 2.76 kills per set and sports an eye-catching .380 hitting percentage. She’s also a menace at the net, averaging 1.24 blocks per set. It’s numbers like those that led the BIG EAST to declare her Player of the Week for the week of Sept. 28.

Marquette will attempt to counter Smith and the rest of Creighton’s stingy defense with outside hitter Taylor Louis. The redshirt freshman is averaging 5.11 kills per set, which is good for second-best in the entire country.

The Golden Eagles are currently one-and-a-half games behind the Blue Jays for first place in the conference with five of 18 BIG EAST matches in the rearview mirror. If Marquette beats Creighton and takes care of business against Georgetown, they will be within striking distance of the lead. On the other hand, if Marquette loses to Creighton, they would be down two-and-a-half games and lose the chance of getting a tiebreaker against the Blue Jays, which would make it vastly more difficult for the Golden Eagles to win the BIG EAST regular season title.

The opening serve against Georgetown will be at 6 p.m. on Friday, while the Creighton match begins at 1:00 pm on Sunday. Video for the Creighton match will be available on the Big East Digital Network.

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