The opening weekend proved a mix bag for the Marquette women’s volleyball team, as it split a pair of matches with Bowling Green and No. 13 BYU. The loss to BYU came by three points in the fifth set and will go down as a missed opportunity the team will view with frustration as the season continues.
Luckily for Marquette, it has an immediate opportunity for redemption Friday night, when third-ranked University of Southern California comes to the Al McGuire Center to kick off the Marquette Challenge. The Golden Eagles will also take on Texas Christian University Saturday afternoon.
Marquette vs. USC, Friday, September 6, 7:00 p.m., Al McGuire Center, Marquette Challenge
USC, the highest-ranked team Marquette has ever hosted, started its season 3-0 with wins over Purdue, Western Kentucky and Alabama A&M in the Mortar Board Premier Championship at Purdue last weekend. Sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio was the tournament MVP, racking up 25 kills and nine service aces in three matches.
Last season, USC made the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament, but lost to national champion Texas a match before the Final Four. As a program, the Trojans’ finest hour was roughly ten years ago, when they won back-to-back national titles in 2002 and 2003.
Player to watch: Natalie Hagglund, senior, libero, Encinitas, Calif.
In 2011, Hagglund became the first libero in USC program history to be named a first team American Volleyball Coaches Association all-American. Not to outdo herself, she was renamed to the team in 2012. She averaged just a smidge of 600 digs per season in those two years, and her 613 last season ranks third in program history. Her 5.14 digs per set in 2011 ranks fourth on the USC all-time list. She even went to China with the Pac-12 All-Star Team for six exhibition matches against Chinese teams. Her on-court leadership and brilliant defense make the Trojans click, and Marquette would be smart to serve away from her.
Fun Fact: The team is referred to as the “Women of Troy.”
Prediction: USC in four sets
Marquette vs. TCU, Saturday, September 7, Noon, Al McGuire Center, Marquette Challenge
The Horned Frogs began their second season in the Big 12 last weekend. They played in the Georgia Bulldog Invitational and went 2-1, beating Furman and Lipscomb but falling to the hosts, Georgia. They are an extremely young team this year, with 13 of 17 roster players being either freshmen or sophomores.
In 2012, TCU debuted in the Big 12 with a 15-14 record, but just a 4-12 mark in the conference. It won nine consecutive non-conference games and was 13-2 at one point last year, before the Big 12 grind overwhelmed them and dashed their hopes at postseason play.
Player to watch: Yvonne Igodan, senior, middle blocker, Houston, Texas
Igodan, an all-Big 12 honorable mention in 2012, returns as the Horned Frogs’ number one offensive threat. She led the team with 311 kills (3.24 per set), nearly 100 more than the next most effective hitter on the 2012 team. Igodan is averaging just 2.3 kills per set so far this season, and has hit just .226, which is low for good middle hitters. She will likely test Marquette middles Jackie Kocken and Megan Niemann, who will be playing in just their fourth collegiate games.
Fun Fact: TCU’s backup setter’s name is Fleming Smurthwaite. That’s not a typo.
Prediction: Marquette in four sets.