2021 Big East Volleyball Tournament
#1 Creighton Bluejays (29-3, 16-2 Big East) vs #2 Marquette Golden Eagles
Date: Saturday, November 27, 2021
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Television: FS2, with Bob Brainerd and Michelle Griffin-Wenzel on the call
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB
Season Series: Creighton won, 2-0
All-Time Series: Creighton leads, 23-5
Once more, with feeling.
Marquette and Creighton will hook it up for a third time this season, marking the fourth time since the Reformation that this has happened. In the previous three versions of CU/MU in the Big East championship match, Creighton has come away with the win twice after the Golden Eagles won the first showdown back in 2013.
That’s just part of the larger trend of the all-time Marquette-Creighton series, which has been heavily tilted in the Bluejays’ favor since they joined the Big East. The Golden Eagles are 1-3 in the last four meetings with Creighton, with the Bluejays taking the last three encounters. Before the Marquette win in Omaha back in the spring season? Creighton had won eight straight against Marquette.
Yes, it’s a whole lot of “the best Marquette team in the entire athletic department keeps banging their head on the best team in the Creighton athletic department over and over again” situation. Even this year, where Marquette finally broke through and won their first regular season title since 2013, the Golden Eagles were forced by way of identical 16-2 records in Big East play to share that title with the Bluejays.
Neither team needs Saturday’s championship game victory in order to secure an NCAA tournament berth by way of automatic bid. Both squads were in the top 20 of the RPI as of November 21st, and the NCAA isn’t leaving out a top 25 team if they don’t win their conference tournament. No, Saturday’s match is mostly just for bragging rights. Whoever wins on Saturday will get to say that they are the true 2021 Big East champion, even though the season series will be 2-1 in favor of the Bluejays even if the Golden Eagles are victorious.
How did Marquette get here? A quick dismissal of Connecticut on Friday afternoon. The Golden Eagles won in a sweep, never allowing the Huskies to score more than 18 points in any of the three sets. Creighton’s path? A 3-0 victory over #4 seeded DePaul, and it went just as smoothly as Marquette’s. The Blue Demons also never scored more than 18 points in a set, and the Bluejays had their opponents scattering around the court in an effort to stay underneath attacks all match long.
With All-Big East performer and leading attacker Hope Werch sidelined after a knee injury last weekend, Marquette assembled an offense together against the Huskies to get to the title match. Six women and only six women scored kills for the Golden Eagles, and all six had somewhere between five and eight kills. The defense was well spread around as well, with four MU players recording 11 digs in just three sets of action. I can’t speak for certain whether or not such offensive and defensive diversity is going to work out for the best against Creighton, but Marquette also might not have a choice given how many injuries they have in their hitting corps right now.
On Friday, the Bluejays relied heavily on Norah Sis to get through their semifinal match. She had 29 of their 96 attacks, but she put down a whopping 15 kills in just three sets while hitting .448. When someone is hitting .448, you absolutely let them tune the other guys up like that. Sis has about a 100 kill advantage on the year on #2 attacker Jaela Zimmerman, but that margin can be handwaved by Zimmerman missing nine sets through the course of the year. Sis, who was rightly named Big East Freshman of the Year, is averaging 3.67 kills while hitting .259 this season, and her 2.94 digs are nothing to sneeze at as well. Zimmerman is the less efficient swinger, hitting just .218 this season. With that said, Zimmerman hit north of .240 in both matches against Marquette this season, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see her have success again on Saturday.
Annika Welty and Naomi Hickman form a formidable pairing in the middle for Creighton. They’re both averaging north of 1.15 blocks per set this season, which is really great no matter which way you slice it. Neither of them are called on to carry the offensive load for the Bluejays, but that’s an “on the average” statement. We can’t ignore Hickman’s ongoing saga to look like an All-American against the Golden Eagles, so MU will have to mind their P’s and Q’s when Hickman’s on the floor.