I've got to give big props to the Creighton Bluejays. On Saturday evening, they found themselves down early in every set played against Marquette in the Big East Tournament finale held in their own arena. Each time, the Jays fought back and even managed to take the second set from the top seeded Golden Eagles. This is a nice little rivalry and I look forward to quietly cursing Jess Bird and Lauren Smith for the next three years... oh god there are no seniors on this team.
But last night, all of Creighton's comebacks weren't enough to top Marquette. The Golden Eagles laid claim to their first Big East Tournament championship after laying waste to the Jays in the fourth set after the first three sets were tight, anxiety inducing affairs.
Marquette opened on a 6-1 streak, but Creighton slowly climbed out of the hole managing to tie it up at fourteen each. The Jays promptly shot themselves in the foot when Michele Sicner committed a service error to hand the Golden Eagles the lead back. Marquette finished on a 11-4 run, helped in part by 6 Creighton errors, to take the first 25-18.
After the hosts scored the first two points, the Golden Eagles took 7 of the next 8 and forced another early Jays timeout. The Bluejays could not figure out how to handle Meghan Niemann, who added 3 more kills early in the second to the five she notched in the first. But once again (this is going to be a recurring theme) Creighton came back to tie the set at 11. Marquette answered with a Nele Barber kill and a Niemann-Lindsey Gosh block to re-establish a lead, but otherwise neither team was able to string together consecutive points until Creighton took the lead at 18-17. Points were traded, mistakes were made by both teams, but the Jays eventually took the second, 27-25.
I may have had a RubieQ-esque fit over Marquette's 5 service errors in the set (made all the worse by the Jays' radio team mentioning Gosh's and Autumn Bailey's high risk serves each time they came to the line for the remainder of the match), but Creighton also struggled finishing with 11 service errors on the night to Marquette's 9. Gosh accounted for 6 of the Golden Eagles' flubs so it should be interesting to see if she modifies her serve as the post-season gets underway.
The third started out in familiar fashion: early Marquette lead (9-5 to force an early timeout) followed by Creighton not going easily into the night. But while the Jays got within a pair thrice, the Golden Eagles never surrendered the lead: Bailey broke through the defense that had stymied her all night for 7 kills and Marquette took the set 25-21.
Creighton managed a 5-3 lead early in the fourth, but it was short lived. After a tie at 7, the Golden Eagles closed the door on the Jays who used their last timeout down 12-18. Marquette barely noticed taking 4 of the next 5. After Creighton sent their final two serves into the net, the match ended just as it started: Ellie Rauch hitting a service ace. The set was Marquette's, 25-16, and with it came the match, the Big East Tournament championship, and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Three Golden Eagles finished with double digit kills: Bailey (18), Barber (17), and Niemann (15). Libero Julie Jeziorowski also got in on the action tallying her first kill of the season. Elizabeth Koberstein, who was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, chipped in an obscene 56 assists and 4 kills. She was joined on the all tournament team by Barber and Niemann.
Next up: the NCAA selection show at 8:30 pm on ESPNU. The ladies will learn where they land in the NCAA tournament and, fingers crossed, there will hopefully be post season volleyball at the McGuire Center.