Catholic 7 volleyball breakdown

Conference realignment for the women’s volleyball team, whose recent years in the Big East have been marked by steady improvement, could make the Golden Eagles’ trip to the national tournament a little harder.

Just four seasons ago, Marquette’s volleyball team went 18-12, but only 6-8 in conference, and was not even invited to the Big East tournament. Since then, the Golden Eagles have added wins every season, finishing 23-9 in 2010 and 24-11 in 2011, and reached the Big East championship semifinals both of those seasons. In 2012, the team went 27-7, played for a Big East title for the first time since it joined the conference in 2005 and returned to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.

Marquette’s 13-2 conference record last season earned it second place in the Big East, only behind 14-1 Louisville, the Big East tournament champion. Alongside Marquette and Louisville, Notre Dame represented the Big East at the NCAA tournament, but only the Cardinals, who finished the season ranked No. 17 in the country, made it out of the first round.

Last season’s success not only yielded team achievements to Marquette, but individual accolades as well. Junior Elizabeth Koberstein and seniors Danielle Carlson and Holly Mertens were selected to the All-Big East First Team, making Marquette one of only two schools (Cincinnati was the other) to have three players receive the honor.

The Golden Eagles were also the only Catholic 7 team to finish in the top five of the Big East last season. St. John’s ended the year sixth with a record of 20-12 overall and 7-8 in conference play, while Seton Hall’s 18-10 record and 6-9 mark in the Big East earned the Pirates ninth place. Villanova, DePaul, and Georgetown all finished below .500, combined for 11 conference wins, and rounded out the standings in 10th, 11th and 14th places, respectively. The last Catholic 7 team, Providence, actually plays volleyball in the America East conference, where it had an abysmal year. Going 1-30 overall and 0-12 in conference, the Friars were one of the worst teams in all of college volleyball last season.

The Catholic 7 will likely add five schools to form a 12-team conference, and media outlets nationwide have speculated that Xavier, Butler, Creighton, Saint Louis, Virginia Commonwealth, Dayton and Gonzaga are all candidates. Of those seven schools, Dayton (ranked No. 19 in the country) and Creighton (No. 24) found the most success in 2012, as both teams took home their conference titles and won their first round matches in the NCAA tournament. Coincidentally, Creighton knocked off Marquette in the first round of the tournament. Xavier and VCU also did well in 2012, winning a combined 46 games and finishing second and third in the Atlantic 10. Butler was also above .500, while Saint Louis ended the season ranked 10th in the Atlantic 10 and Gonzaga was eighth in the West Coast Conference.

Looking at the seven prospective additions to the Catholic 7, it is clear that VCU, Xavier, Dayton, Butler, and Creighton would be the best five schools to bring in, from a volleyball standpoint. If those teams were added, all 12 schools in the Catholic 7 conference, ranked top to bottom based on their volleyball teams’ success in 2012, would be as follows: Dayton, Creighton, Marquette, Xavier, VCU, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Butler, Villanova, DePaul, Georgetown and Providence.