Volleyball seeded No. 14 in NCAA Tournament, hosts High Point University

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Volleyball seeded No. 14 in NCAA Tournament, hosts High Point University

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

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For the first time in program history, Marquette women’s volleyball is a ranked seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Golden Eagles will host the first and second rounds this weekend as the tournament’s No. 14 seed, which was announced Sunday. 

“We’ve been working at it for a while,” head coach Ryan Theis said. “We scheduled very aggressively this preseason trying to put ourselves in the position to do it, so I couldn’t be happier for the group.”

In the team’s eighth consecutive postseason appearance, Marquette will host unseeded High Point University this Friday, a team playing in its third-straight NCAA Tournament.

Although Marquette lost to No. 9 Creighton in the BIG EAST title match last Saturday, Theis said he was confident in his squad’s ability to secure a top-16 seed.

“I thought we had a good shot,” Theis said. “We had six losses on the year and the worst loss was (Rating Percentage Index) No. 18. That’s not a bad resume to put out there: 26-6 with those losses and three top 25 wins.”

The HPU Panthers, 21-9, come into the matchup as Big South Conference champions.

HPU faced four ranked teams in the season but did not win any of those matches. The Panthers rank 56th in RPI despite securing only one victory over a top-100 opponent this year.

Senior middle blocker Molly Livingston leads HPU in kills, blocks and hitting percentage. At 6-foot-2, the Big South Conference Player of the Year has length at the net that Marquette struggled to defend at times this season.

HPU libero Abby Bottomley put up 535 digs in the regular season and was named to the Big South First Team. Other talented Panthers include middle blocker Jordan Hefner, right-side hitter Katie Tylman and freshman outside hitter Madison Smith.

The key for the Golden Eagles will be utilizing their height and defending the middle of the court. With HPU’s tallest players listed at 6-foot-2, Marquette can dominate above the net if the team can properly utilize the length of Elizabeth Orf, Allie Barber and Jenna Rosenthal.

Even though the Golden Eagles appeared in the tournament for eight straight years, this is the first time Marquette will host the first few rounds.

“We hope we get a great crowd (and) great turnout,” Theis said. “(Hosting) means a lot. We’re familiar (with the location and) don’t have to be on the road. All those things will help.”

The winner of the matchup will advance to play either University of Cincinnati or Illinois State, which will occur at the Al McGuire Center prior to the Golden Eagles’ matchup.

If Marquette can advance to the Sweet 16, the team will likely have to topple No. 3 University of Illinois. A rematch with the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers would likely happen in the Elite Eight.

For now, Marquette is focused on taking down the HPU Panthers to continue its historic season. The matchup will take place Friday at 7 p.m. at the Al McGuire Center.

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