PREVIEW: Volleyball kicks off 2022 season on road at No. 11 Kentucky

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Photo by Collin Nawrocki

Marquette volleyball celebrates during its 0-3 loss to No. 8 Kentucky Sept. 11.

Marquette volleyball will have a tough test Friday afternoon when it opens up the 2022 season against No. 11 Kentucky at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington.

“I’m super excited, I’ve been here for a semester now, so I’ve just been waiting for this day to come and it’s finally here,” junior outside hitter Aubrey Hamilton said.

The Golden Eagles will be without three key players in last year’s game against the Wildcats, as Hope Werch, Taylor Wolf and Savannah Rennie all have graduated.

Hamilton, who transferred this past offseason from Notre Dame, said Marquette needs to play under its own control in order to start the season at 1-0.

“(We) just have to keep our composure and just play one play at a time and just give it your all,” Hamilton said.

Head coach Ryan Theis said he is hoping to see the upside of a young team, such as his, play against some of the best teams in the country. Following their two-game trip to Kentucky, the Golden Eagles will face in-state rival No. 4 Wisconsin Sept. 2.

“I don’t think expectations are fair yet, we haven’t played a game (and) our team is pretty young,” Theis said. “A lot of these guys haven’t been in big games, this is the youngest we’ve been since 2017 when we rolled a freshman and a sophomore and we saw the benefits of that in 2018 and 2019.”

A Look at the Wildcats

Come Friday night, it will be the sixth time that Marquette and Kentucky will face-off all-time. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 4-1.

Former Wildcat outside hitter Madi Skinner helped lead Kentucky to victory over Marquette last year with 16 kills, while SEC Freshman of the Year Emma Grome had 41 assists.

Meanwhile for Marquette, Wolf and Werch each had 13 kills while the Golden Eagles hit .242 and had 8 service errors on the night.

Kentucky lost four of its key players over the offseason, most notably its two top kills leaders in Skinner and Ali Stumler.

Despite the amount of roster loss, Kentucky returns juniors Azhani Tealer, Riah Walker and Bella Bell. Last year, Tealer and Bell finished third and fifth on the team respectively in kills, while Walker finished with 154 digs serving as one of the Wildcats liberos.

Key Players

  • Grome posted the seventh highest single season assist total in Kentucky program history with 1,218 assists last season. The All-SEC Preseason team honoree also posted seven double-doubles, including two games with 30 assists and 20 digs.
  • Tealer served as a big role in the Wildcats’ defense last season, leading the team with 119 total blocks. She was named a AVCA All-American honorable mention her sophomore season after posting 271 kills and a SEC leading .433 hitting percentage.
  • Senior Hannah Vanden Berg returns as the most experienced returning outside hitter for Marquette. Before her season ending knee injury, Vanden Berg notched 10 or more kills in four of her last seven games last season, including a career-high 16 against Seton Hall Oct. 16.
  • Junior middle blocker Carsen Murray will be important for Theis’ teams plan for victory.  The Lee’s Summit, Missouri native was the lone Golden Eagle who earned a spot on the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team this season after recording 169 kills and 95 blocks while hitting .336, which ranked No. 7 in the league.

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This story was written by Jackson Gross. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JacksonGrossMU.