2022 Big East Volleyball Tournament
#1 Marquette Golden Eagles (27-2, 17-1 Big East) vs #2 Creighton Bluejays (26-4, 17-1 Big East)
Date: Saturday, November 26, 2022
Time: 5pm Central
Location: D.J. Sokol Arena, Omaha, Nebraska
Television: FS2, with Bob Brainerd and Jill Dorsey Hall on the call
Streaming: FoxSports.com/live or the Fox Sports app
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteVB
Season Series: Tied at 1-1 with both teams winning at home
All-Time Series: Creighton leads, 25-6
And so we end up exactly where we always thought we would end up: Marquette and Creighton, #1 vs #2, squaring off for the Big East tournament championship.
The league expanded the conference tournament from four teams to six teams this season, presumably just to expand the number of teams fighting for a tournament spot as the season went along. With the four team tournament effectively turning into a Marquette/Creighton invitational over the last several years with both the Golden Eagles and Bluejays coming to the end of the regular season finale involved in the AVCA top 25, it does make sense to start to give the rest of the league something to fight for as well as a bigger chance to win postseason matches.
If that was the goal, mission accomplished, as both Connecticut and Xavier picked up Big East tournament wins. If the goal was to try to create a bigger challenge for Marquette and Creighton..... well, that didn’t work this time around. Marquette downed Connecticut in straight sets in the first of two semifinals on Friday, and it wasn’t particularly close. The Huskies never even reached 20 points in any of the three sets, and MU outhit UConn .352 to .130. The other half of the semifinals wasn’t that much more dramatic, even with an extra 900 people in the building in Omaha. Creighton won on their home court over Xavier in straight sets, and they got pushed eevvvvver so slightly more than Marquette did. Xavier got to 20 points once, in the second set, and the #3 seeded Musketeers did hit .226 against #2 Creighton’s .388. I guess that’s the difference between a 1 vs 5 match and 2 vs 3 match?
As for how the #14 and #15 teams in the AVCA poll stack up against each other, they’re about exactly as evenly matched on paper as you would expect, just like they were a week ago for the regular season finale in Milwaukee. MU and CU are the top two offense and defenses in the Big East by way of hitting percentages. Marquette’s offense has the edge, .294 to .270, while Creighton’s defense is a touch better, .165 to .174. They’re the top two assisting teams in the league, as well as the only two squads averaging more than 13 assists a set. They’re 1-2 in kills, both north of 14 per frame, and 1-3 in aces with Marquette holding a 1.79 to 1.61 edge there. The two teams are 4-5 in the Big East in blocks, but it’s a microscopic difference with Creighton at 2.05 per set and just 0.01 ahead of the Golden Eagles.
Pretty much exactly what you’d expect from two teams that both went 17-1 in Big East play and only lost to each other and split the sets in the season series 5-3 favoring the Golden Eagles. In fact, that differential is the most important thing to discuss heading into this match. Marquette won in straight sets in Milwaukee last weekend to generate the tie atop the standings and create a shared regular season title. They were also inches away from sweeping the Bluejays in Omaha back in mid-October, going up 2-0 at D.J. Sokol Arena and sitting at a 17-17 tie in the third set. A 6-0 run by Creighton tilted that one towards them and arguably energized them to figure out a way to force a fifth set and ultimately pull off the reverse sweep.
Marquette hasn’t lost a match since, running off 12 straight wins and dropping just three sets along the way. A win on Saturday would be 13 straight, and thus match MU’s winning streak from earlier this season that was snapped by the Bluejays. It would also be the first time that MU has won two straight against Creighton since they won at home in late October 2013 and then won the Big East tournament championship a month later. That title match was in Omaha as well, which seems to be a very nice little parallel.
There is something more than pride on the line here as well. With those top 20 AVCA rankings, there’s no doubt that both Marquette and Creighton are NCAA tournament teams this season. Earning the automatic bid to the field isn’t changing anything for either team. However, there is the issue of seeding for the NCAA bracket. Marquette came into the Big East tournament sitting at #12 in the RPI, while Creighton is at #16. The top 16 teams according to the selection committee are the hosts for the first two rounds of the national championship. I am of the belief that Marquette has made their case strongly enough to host already, and a neutral site win over a top 100 UConn team in the semifinals just helped that out. Creighton, though, may need the win over a top 15 Marquette team to get to host matches at D.J. Sokol Arena next weekend. As we’ve seen in the past with the Golden Eagles, getting those two home contests is a huge advantage to get to the Sweet 16. MU’s only Sweet 16 in program history came in the only time that Marquette was the host institution. It would be an incredible boon to the Big East if that were to happen..... but I have to say that Marquette fans everywhere are hoping that the Bluejays have already done enough to host.
While the two teams are statistically very similar, how they get there is somewhat different. Marquette is leaning on both Aubrey Hamilton and Jenna Reitsma for their primary offense. They have the most swings on the team, but they’re also only 72 swings apart with Hamilton leading at 865. MU also gets contributions from Ella Foti on the pins and from middles Carsen Murray and Hattie Bray. Meanwhile, Creighton runs everything through Norah Sis. The 2022 Big East Player of the Year is averaging 4.23 kills per set.... but she also has more than 700 more attacks than anyone else on the Bluejays roster. Kiana Schmitt, Ava Martin, and Keeley Davis are all great options for setter Kendra Wait, but they are secondary options as the offense runs through Sis. That raises the question: How much does Creighton need from Sis in order to win if Keeley Davis is unavailable as she was on Friday night?