Well, someone in the Big East loves Ryan Theis’ ability to coach volleyball much more than I expected.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Big East released the results of the preseason poll of the league’s coaches in women’s volleyball. As expected, Creighton is the preseason favorite in the league. They have the preseason Player of the Year in outside hitter Norah Sis and three of the 12 women — a full one-quarter! — on the preseason all-conference team.
The surprise doesn’t kick in at second place, which is where YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles turn up. While I don’t agree necessarily in putting the Golden Eagles second given how little offense they return from last season, I’m not going to fault anyone who voted them into their seemingly traditional second place spot behind Creighton. Can’t even fault CU head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth for voting MU at the top of the league, since she can’t vote for her own team.
Someone who is not KBB voted Marquette in first place, as the Golden Eagles snagged not one, but two first place votes to come in just nine points behind the Bluejays.
1 - Creighton, 99 points (9 first place votes)
2 - Marquette, 90 (2)
3 - DePaul, 72
4 - Connecticut, 71
5 - St. John’s, 66
6 - Villanova, 54
7 - Butler, 47
8 - Xavier, 42
T9 - Georgetown, 25
T9 - Providence, 25
11 - Seton Hall, 14
Someone — presumably the same someone who shamefully did not vote for Creighton’s Jaela Zimmerman or Kendra Wait on the all-conference team even with 12 spots available — has Marquette in front of Creighton heading into the season. Marquette, who loses both sides of their setter rotation and all of their top three attackers from last season, is better in this coach’s mind than Creighton, who returns two of the top three attackers in the league last year and the most prolific setter in the league and returns five of their top seven attackers from a team that went 31-4 overall and 16-2 in the league to tie with Marquette for the regular season title a year ago.
I don’t see it, and I don’t know what this coach sees, either. Sure, it’s a huge compliment to MU head coach Ryan Theis to say “yeah, your teams keep winning no matter what, I trust you to figure this year’s roster out and dethrone the Bluejays.” Can’t knock someone for having that much confidence in Theis...... but that doesn’t mean I can’t possibly see how you can actually justify it through logic and reason.
Heck, Marquette lost so much from last season that I picked Marquette to finish third in my preseason picks. Then again, I have MU behind UConn, and the coaches collectively put the Huskies in fourth, so what do I know?
As for the all-conference team, Marquette does have one representative on the 12 woman roster. That’s junior middle blocker Carsen Murray. While she’s not MU’s leading returning attacker from last season, Murray is still definitely deserving of the honor when you extend the all-conference team out to twice as many players can get on the court at once. Here’s the Marquette write up on her accolades:
Murray started all 32 matches last season at middle blocker while leading the squad with a .336 hitting percentage. She also notched 95 blocks for an average of 0.86 per frame and posted 169 kills (1.54 per set). The native of Lee’s Summit, Missouri finished second in the conference in hitting percentage in 2021 and was recognized as the league’s defensive player of the week on Oct. 4 after helping MU to wins over UConn and DePaul. She also earned all-tournament recognition at the Red & White Invitational on Sept. 3-5 for her play in wins over Illinois State, Ohio and UIC.
Creighton and Connecticut are the only two teams in the Big East to put multiple players onto the preseason all-conference team. Seton Hall and Xavier are the only two teams that don’t have anyone honored on the all-league team to start the year. Here’s the full list, with asterisks noting the unanimous choices:
Jaymeson Kinley, Butler, Jr., L
Kennadie Jake-Turner, Connecticut, Grad, MB
Caylee Parker, Connecticut, Grad, OH*
Norah Sis, Creighton, So., OH*
Kendra Wait, Creighton, So., S
Jaela Zimmerman, Creighton, Sr., OH
Jill Pressly, DePaul, Jr., OH*
Carsen Murray, Marquette, Jr., MB
Shaliyah Rhoden, Providence, So., OH
Rachele Rastelli, St. John’s, Grad., RS*
Riley Homer, Villanova, Jr., OH*
Carrigan O’Reilly, Xavier, Sr., S
All seven — six on the floor plus a libero — of my picks for an all-Big East team are on this list, and three of my picks ended up as unanimous choices. One of the five I didn’t have at all is Rachele Rastelli, and that one is completely on St. John’s for the error on someone that was on the ballot of every single coach in the league. Had the Johnnies put up a roster before late July, I wouldn’t have had to guess that last year’s Big East Co-Player of the Year wasn’t on the roster after going through Senior Day festivities last fall. Feels like I can’t be blamed for messing that up.
I also have to say that I’m completely shocked by Villanova’s Riley Homer being on every single ballot. Not that she didn’t deserve to be top 12 right now after finishing 7th in the Big East last season in kills per set.... it’s just that at least one coach voted for Homer but did not vote for Creighton’s Jaela Zimmerman who was third in kills.. If you go by points, Zimmerman was actually more integral to the Bluejays last season, beating out Sis 4.30 to 4.25 per set. But she got left off a ballot. Again, I presume this is the coach that has Marquette in first place, but that’s still insane if you’re picking a 12 woman team.
You can check out the entire Big East press release right here.