The 2013 Big East Volleyball Semifinals Preview

Head coach Bond Shymansky has the Golden Eagles focused on winning the Big East title. - Maggie Bean/MarquetteImages.com

#1 seed Marquette and all three newcomers to the Big East will convene in Omaha starting today to decide who earns the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Semifinal #1: #1 Marquette vs #4 Butler

When: 4pm Central
Where: D.J. Sokol Arena in Omaha, NE
Audio/Visual: Creighton will be streaming both matches for free here, and live stats will be here.
Season Series: Marquette won 2-0, 3-1 (26-24, 30-28, 25-27, 25-23) and 3-1 (25-22, 23-25, 27-25, 29-27)

While Marquette took both ends of the season series against Butler, by no means was it easy. Five of the eight sets that the two teams played this season went to extra points. Butler was also responsible for snapping a significant Marquette streak this season. In the first meeting between these two teams earlier in the year, Butler broke a 14 set winning streak that Marquette had started following their worst performance of the season, a 3-0 whipping at the hands of the Creighton Bluejays, coincidentally in the building where the Big East tournament is being held.

After allowing Marquette to hit .339 in their first match, Butler was able to do a better job on defense the second time around, holding MU to just .249. Marquette countered that defense by spreading the offense around. In the road match, Nele Barber blew up for 23 kills, with Autumn Bailey right behind her at 22. Back in Milwaukee, Barber and Bailey had "just" 18 and 17 kills, but Lindsey Gosh stepped up her game, contributing 17 kills, 10 more than she had in Indianapolis.

While Butler has three all-conference players in Belle Obert, Morgan Peterson, and Erica Stahl, Marquette has to watch out for the attack of Mary Striedl. The sophomore outside hitter averaged just over 2 kills per set over the course of the season, but there's something about Marquette that she likes to see. Striedl averaged 3.50 kills in the eight sets against the Golden Eagles this season, recording 14 in both matches.

Semifinal #2: #2 Creighton vs #3 Xavier

When: 6:30pm Central
Where: D.J. Sokol Arena in Omaha, NE
Audio/Visual: Creighton will be streaming both matches for free here, and live stats will be here.
Season Series: Creighton won 2-0, 3-1 (25-23, 20-25, 25-18, 25-22) and 3-2 (19-25, 26-24, 25-21, 14-25, 15-13)

This has not been the season that the Bluejays expected to have. They started the season ranked #25 in the AVCA top 25 and moved as high as #19 before starting to slip back down. A loss to Butler in their first ever Big East match sent them tumbling out of the top 25, and they have yet to regain a position in the rankings. A road loss to Marquette likely didn't hurt them all that much, but losing a fifth set for the first time ever in D.J. Sokol Arena to St. John's definitely hurt their chances, and dropping a road match to Seton Hall wasn't a good plan, either.

With those two nasty losses on the docket, Creighton was forced to rely on taking the season series from Xavier to break the tie and give the Bluejays the #2 seed in the tournament. Even though Creighton won both matches this season, they weren't able to slow down Abbey Bessler. The freshman outside hitter registered 20 kills in their first meeting and went up to 21 in the second contest. The good news for Creighton is that Xavier had to force their offense through Bessler to get her to those numbers, as she didn't hit better than .190 in either match. In fact, neither team hit better than .200 in their second meeting, and it wasn't because of extended rallies caused hitting percentages to go down. Both teams committed 28 hitting errors in that match after combining for only 39 errors in four sets the first time around.

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