Marquette came in to the Big East volleyball semifinals having dropped four straight matches to Creighton and each of the last nine sets. So when the Bluejays opened up a 2-0 lead with relative ease, no one was particularly surprised.
The Golden Eagles weren't going to go quietly, though, as they bounced back to take the next two sets to force a fifth and deciding set. MU had the early lead in the fifth, but Creighton swung it in their favor and took the fifth and the match, 3-2. The Jays advance to Saturday's Big East tournament final against Villanova, as the Wildcats defeated Xavier in straight sets in the other semifinal match.
Marquette will have to wait until Sunday night to see if their season will continue. As of November 23, MU was sitting at #36 in the NCAA's RPI calculation. While the Jays are ranked #21, I imagine that Marquette's RPI will take a slight tumble as a result of the loss. NCAA women's volleyball is an incredibly top heavy sport, and I'd imagine that all 35 teams in front of Marquette will get in as at large bids, and several of them will be automatic qualifiers. If Marquette does make the NCAA tournament, it will be the fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance, not to mention the fifth appearance in program history.
Creighton was dominant against Marquette in the first two sets, as Big East Freshman of the Year Jaali Winters registered 10 kills in the first set on the way to a 25-19 win, and then CU was up huge in the second set before Marquette made a late flurry to drop the second set by a smaller than expected margin of 25-16. MU came out of the locker room with fire, going up 6-1 to open things up. They would take a lead as large as 19-8 before allowing Creighton to sneak back in. A kill from Jess Bird pulled Creighton within two at 23-21 before Marquette closed out the set.
In the fourth, Marquette took the first three points but never managed to build on that advantage by much. Creighton managed to tie the frame in the early goings at 5, 7, and 8 points each. The match stayed within reach of the Jays the whole time until the very end when MU finally pushed the lead to five points to force the fifth set. The Golden Eagles got the first two points of the deciding set before Creighton assumed control, took a 7-4 lead, and then just closed Marquette out.
Redshirt freshman Taylor Louis had an amazing day, going for 27 kills while hitting .235. Meghan Niemann may have had the most impressive performance for the Golden Eagles, recording 10 kills, three aces, six digs, and three blocks, with most of her output coming in the third and fourth sets. The stats might not seem that important, but given the giant elbow pad on her right arm sleeve and the significant amount of tape on the fingers on her right hand, it would seem that a banged up Niemann was going to drag Marquette into the fifth set if it was the last thing that she was going to do on this earth.
Up Next: Waiting for the NCAA selection show to see if MU's profile is good enough to get them into their fifth straight tournament. It'll air on ESPNU at 8pm Central.