When you look at how the 2013 volleyball season has shaken out, it's not surprising to find out that Marquette and Creighton, the only two Big East teams to earn a spot in the AVCA Top 25 at some point this season, have advanced to the 2013 Big East championship match.
#1 seed Marquette defeated #4 Butler 3-1 (25-18, 14-25, 25-22, 25-16) in the first semifinal, while #2 Creighton moved past #3 Xavier 3-1 (25-20, 25-19, 22-25, 25-17).
While Butler and Marquette played to extra points in five of their eight sets during the regular season, Friday's match was much more wide open going both ways. Each set wrapped up with 25 for the victor, and the closest set was the third, as Marquette pushed Butler to the edge of elimination by just a three point margin. Autumn Bailey continued her struggles at D.J. Sokol Arena after a regular season performance against Creighton that included just six kills against seven errors and a hitting percentage of -.042. While the 2013 Big East Rookie of the Year was able to keep things on the positive side of the ledger in hitting percentage, no one was expecting to see Bailey hit only .054 against Butler.
While Bailey was struggling, the rest of Marquette's offense was not. Nele Barber tied the match high with 18 kills on a ferocious .500 hitting percentage and three more Golden Eagles, including Bailey, were able to crack double digits in kills, and MU hit .293 as a team. Elizabeth Koberstein, fresh off being named 2013 Big East Player of the Year, showed her usual dominant form at the setter position, recording 49 assists and somehow finding a way to raise her third best in the country 12.22 assists/set average.
Butler was led by 18 kills from Belle Obert, and setter Morgan Peterson chipped in 43 assists. After two 14 kill performances against Marquette in the regular season, the second of which caused MrsB to champion her for the all-conference team, Mary Striedl was held to just 2 kills on 18 attacks while hitting a woeful -.222.
In the second semifinals against Xavier, Creighton had five players crack double digits in kills, led by 13 from Kelli Browning. She didn't have the most impressive line on the night, though, as setter Michelle Sicner recorded a triple double with 44 assists, 21 digs, and 11 kills. Freshman Jess Bird also racked up a double-double with 11 kills and 22 digs.
What may have doomed the Musketeers was their reliance, or at least attempted reliance, on freshman Abbey Bessler. She had 57 attacks, 20 more than any other XU player, but she registered only 13 kills and hit .088. Granted, you can't blame the coaching staff for her eight errors as well, but when Bessler's not landing kills, perhaps it's time to go in a different direction. Then again, not every team has a Nele Barber and a Lindsey Gosh to go along with their lead attacker.
Marquette and Creighton will face off on Saturday afternoon at D.J. Sokol Arena. Match time is 5pm Central, and it will be streamed live on GoCreighton.com.
Speaking of Creighton Athletics, how about some highlights of Marquette's match courtesy of those nice folks in Omaha?