The results of the preseason poll of the Big East's volleyball coaches are in. The item of largest importance for Marquette fans is that sophomore outside hitter and noted meme topic Autumn Bailey was named the Big East's preseason Player of the Year. This is the second straight season where a Golden Eagle received that honor, as Elizabeth Koberstein was named co-Player of the Year with Creighton's Kelli Browning prior to the 2013 season.
Bailey winning the vote amongst the Big East coaches isn't entirely surprising. If you drill down to only Big East matches last season, she had a league high 4.61 kills per set, and hit .306, which had her eighth best in the conference in that regard. She's clearly deserving, based on last year, and her ability to contribute on the defensive end, as well. However, Koberstein was a passing wizard and was named the 2013 postseason Big East Player of the Year. It remains to be seen if a less experienced setter is going to be able to get the ball to Bailey as well, which is why my choice for this award was the aforementioned Kelli Browning.
The Golden Eagles finished second to Creighton in the predicted order of finish balloting. The Bluejays picked up five of the first place votes and 77 points overall, while Marquette had 4 ballots where they were listed on top and ended up with 71 points. Xavier snared the final first place vote and landed in third with 66 points. Butler and St. John's rounded out the top five, which means I correctly predicted the order for the top five teams. Seton Hall was the final team to crack 40 points as they ended up in sixth place, followed by Villanova (29 points), Georgetown (25), DePaul (21). Providence makes their return to the Big East for volleyball for the first time since 2001 and finished last in the preseason ballot with 10 points.
Let's check out the all-conference team, shall we?
Autumn Bailey, Marquette, So., OH ^
Abbey Bessler, Xavier, So., OH ^
Alex Blair, Xavier, R-Sr., MB
Kelli Browning, Creighton, Sr., MB ^
Lindsey Gosh, Marquette, Sr., RS ^
Shelbey Manthorpe, Seton Hall, Sr., S
Leah McNary, Creighton, Sr., OH
Meghan Niemann, Marquette, R-So., MH ^
Belle Obert, Butler, Sr., OH ^
Karin Palgutova, St. John’s, Jr., OH
Aubree Smith, Xavier, Sr., S ^
Erica Stahl, Butler, Sr., MB
Aleksandra Wachowicz, St. John’s, Sr., OH
As you can see from the carrots next to some of the names, seven different players were listed on every single ballot that they could show up on, as coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players. Marquette has three players on the all-conference team, and all three of them - Bailey, redshirt sophomore Meghan Niemann, and senior Lindsey Gosh - were all unanimous choices. I suppose that's how you compensate for the loss of your dominant setter and your head coach to end up with 4 first place votes.
There were 13 spots on the all-conference team due to a tie somewhere in the voting, leaving me with 10 correct names from my predicted all-Big East squad. The main miss was due to my insistence on including a libero, which did not happen on the official team. I included Creighton's Michelle Sicner at setter as well, based on her performance last year, but word out of Omaha is that she's in a bit of a battle to see who ends up with the job for the nationally ranked Bluejays. I'm somewhat surprised to see Manthorpe end up on the list, as she finished last in assists per set amongst the Big East's regular setters, and not by a small margin, either. She had 8.76 assists/set, while the setter in front of her on the stat sheet, Georgetown's Caitlin Brauneis, had 9.98/set. I'm guessing Gosh worked her way onto the list by way of her ability to serve the ball and lead the league in aces in 2013, while Wachowicz finished the season third in the Big East in kills per set, making her a worthy choice here.