Marquette hopes to bring ‘big-match moments’ to tournament match against WKU

Lucas Aulbach

The Lady Toppers are vying for their first NCAA Tournament win in school history this weekend in Illinois, but they’ll first have to get through a team looking to make its own history.

WKU (31-3) will face Marquette (23-10) in the first round 4:30 p.m. Friday, a team which is also looking to get its first postseason win after earning its first tournament invite in school history last weekend.

The Lady Eagles are one of three teams from the Big East Conference in the NCAA Tournament this season and earned an at-large bid after losing to Cincinnati in the Big East Tournament semifinals.

Marquette Head Coach Bond Shymansky, who was named Big East Coach of the Year this season, said the Lady Eagles are ready for postseason play.

“We’ve had a lot of big-match moments this year, and we’re looking forward to more big-match moments down there in Illinois,” he said on Tuesday. “I think our team is healthy and excited, and we should bring a lot of energy to the first- and second-round matchups.”

Marquette finished No. 40 in the final regular season RPI poll, released earlier this week. WKU rose three spots to No. 21, the highest the school has ever been ranked.

Much of the Lady Eagles’ offense runs through freshman setter Chelsea Heier. She averages 11.90 assists per set this season, which ranks seventh in the country.

Marquette and the Lady Toppers have had similar fates against the two teams they have both played. The Lady Eagles split two matches with Middle Tennessee State while WKU went 2-1 against its rival, including wins for the regular season and conference championship.

Neither team was able to score a win over Cincinnati, with Marquette going 0-2 against the Lady Bearcats and WKU dropping an October match against them. Cincinnati, who went on to win the Big East Conference Tournament, was the last team to beat WKU.