The Marquette women’s volleyball team defeated Northern Illinois in four sets (28-26, 25-15, 15-25, 25-12) Saturday and secured a berth in the NCAA tournament. The Golden Eagles will take on Creighton Friday in Minneapolis.
In knocking off the Huskies, Marquette finished out the regular season with a 27-6 record and a 15-3 mark in the Big East.
Senior right side hitter Holly Mertens and senior middle hitter Dani Carlson led Marquette in kills Saturday with 12 each. Sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Gosh also broke into double-figures with 11 kills. Junior libero Julie Jeziorowski, Marquette’s new all-time leader in digs, had 27 in the four-set win.
“We go out and everybody has a different feeling when you go on the court,” Mertens said. ”You have to give everything you’ve got, otherwise you’re done.”
A day after their win, the team gathered in the Union Sports Annex to watch the NCAA Volleyball Selection Show to see where it would end up. Coming in, the team was confident it would receive an at-large bid.
“Going into today, we knew we were going to make it,” Mertens said. “That’s a good feeling going into selection day, knowing that you’re going to be coming up on the board.”
As it turned out, Marquette drew Creighton, the 28-3 champions out of the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bluejays boast a 16-game winning streak and will look to carry that momentum into their 4:30 p.m. CST Friday tilt against the Golden Eagles.
“It’s nice that we get a short drive up to Minneapolis to take on teams like Creighton in the first round,” coach Bond Shymansky said. “They are certainly a hot team, a well-coached team, and we look forward to that little ‘Battle of the Jesuits’ in the first round.”
MVC conference player of the year Megan Bober leads the Bluejays at setter, with 9.62 assists, 3.00 digs and 1.9 kills per set. Taking her out of her element will be a major key to the Golden Eagles’ chances of advancing.
“There’s more pressure, but it’s more fun, in a weird way,” Carlson said. “Our team comes and fights, and we give it all that we have.”
Shymansky said he expects the competition in Marquette’s side of the bracket to provide great experience for his players.
“We can kind of get a gauge for what is that level of play like, what’s the intensity like, and we’re sure we’ll see that out of the teams we play up in Minneapolis,” Shymansky said.
Regardless of the competition, expectations for Marquette have changed because of its recent successes. After Marquette won its first ever NCAA tournament game last season, it would be disappointing if the team couldn’t win at least a game in this year’s tournament, especially since the 2012 Golden Eagles have a better record than their ground-breaking 2011 predecessors.
“It’s the result of a lot of hard work, and it’s being rewarded,” Carlson said. “It’s a goal that we set at the beginning of the season, and one that we started setting when Bond came in four years ago. It’s our team moving forward and being more successful.”
In order to move forward, Marquette needs to win at least one game in this year’s tournament, and that’s exactly what Shymansky plans to do.
“We have high expectations and big goals for our program, and those opportunities will be granted when we go into the tournament,” Shymansky said.