We went into Saturday’s Big East volleyball tournament championship match with the thought that Marquette was absolutely capable of beating Creighton. The two regular season matches — in Omaha, just like this one was — went down as a five set loss for the Golden Eagles and a three set sweep. Five set losses can be cointosses thanks to the weirdness that is the 15 point final frame, and a win is a win. The possibilities were there.
And boy oh boy, were they ever there.
Your final from D.J. Sokol Arena: Creighton 3, Marquette 1, with set scores of 18-25, 25-19, 31-29, and 25-22. The Bluejays win the Big East tournament title and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Marquette falls to 10-4 on the year.
As I said: The possibilities were there for Marquette to win this match. Let’s fast forward past the Golden Eagles winning the first set somewhat easily — the point margin was decently wide, the hitting wasn’t all that great — and deep into the second set, as a 4-0 burst from the Golden Eagles is capped by a kill from Kaitlyn Lines, and Marquette leads 18-16. MU scores just one more point the rest of the set, and it was a gift on an attack error by Kiana Schmitt. Two blocks by the Bluejays, a straight up miss by Taylor Wolf, and a Claire Mosher service error all helped CU go on a 9-1 run to close out the set and win 25-19.
It was not great, and things would get worse.
Third set. Back-to-back aces from Wolf put Marquette up 19-12. Seemingly strongly in control of things here, on the path to a 2-1 lead. Creighton cuts the lead to 20-16, but MU responds with kills from Savannah Rennie and Lines. 22-16. A service error by Creighton’s Ally Van Eekeren makes it 23-19 Marquette. A kill by Hope Werch makes it 24-21, set point for the Golden Eagles.
Creighton wins the set, 31-29. The Bluejays fended off seven set points on their way to going up 2-1 in the match.
1) Marquette fell apart in the second. It never should have been 1-1.
2) Marquette fell apart in the third. It never should have been 2-1 favoring the Bluejays.
Or, as Friend Of The Show Matt DeMarinis put it when I expressed this thought on the Twitter Machine:
blah blah blah, the fourth set goes poorly right out of the gate, Marquette makes it interesting late but loses the set and the match. The Bluejays have now won 16 of the last 18 matches against Marquette and nine of the last 10. Matt’s right. When you have a chance to finish them, you have to finish them, especially when the series has been so tilted one way like this. Marquette was given chances to finish Creighton, and they didn’t. The end.
Up Next: A whole bunch of finger crossing. The NCAA tournament selection show is on Sunday, April 4, 2021. It’s a 3pm Central time start, and ESPNU will have the broadcast. Marquette will be hoping to get an at-large bid and extend their streak to 10 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. It’s the longest (and only) streak in program history.
Through matches played on March 28th, Marquette had an RPI ranking of #30. It’s a 48 team tournament this year because of the pandemic. 30 automatic bids, 18 at-large bids. Is the RPI ranking perfect? No. Did Marquette do themselves a lot of good by beating #27 St. John’s? Yes. Did playing #15 Creighton in Omaha help? Maybe. Is that enough to get the Golden Eagles in, or are the margins so slim that they get left out as part of the field being trimmed from 64 to 48? We’ll see.