Volleyball can’t complete comeback against Creighton

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Volleyball can’t complete comeback against Creighton

Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@marquette.edu

Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@marquette.edu

Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@marquette.edu

Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@marquette.edu

Andrew Goldstein, andrew.goldstein@marquette.edu

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Marquette had no shortage of opportunities to entirely collapse in their BIG EAST semifinal match against the Creighton Blue Jays.

They could have done it when Creighton won the first two sets of the match and extended their streak of sets won against Marquette to 11. They could have done it when a furious Creighton comeback eroded Marquette’s 19-9 lead in the third set to 23-21. And they certainly could have done it in the fourth set, facing a team that had thoroughly dominated them two other times this season.

Instead, Marquette refused to give Creighton anything. The Golden Eagles scraped their way back from a seemingly insurmountable halftime deficit to force a decisive fifth set against the BIG EAST’s regular season champions. They could not complete the comeback, though, as Creighton held on for precious life to a 25-19, 25-16, 21-25, 20-25, 15-10 victory.

“I applaud our team’s effort in (sets) three and four,” Marquette head coach Ryan Theis said. “We played with a lot of energy.”

The first two sets of the match progressed in much the same way that the first two Marquette-Creighton bouts did — badly for the gold and blue. Creighton’s freshman standout Jaali Winters clobbered Marquette’s defense into submission in the first set, putting up an astounding 10 kills on 20 attempts with only one error to lead Creighton to victory. Winters followed that performance by tallying four kills in the second set, which helped lead her team to a .267 set hitting percentage and another victory.

“Creighton played great in the first two (sets),” Theis said. “They kind of showed why they were the number one seed.”

Pressed into a seemingly inescapable corner, Marquette’s defense suddenly became a steel fortress. The front line recorded six blocks over the course of the set, while the back row allowed only eight Creighton attacks to get down for kills. At one point in the set, Creighton had a below-abysmal hitting percentage of -.229. Even though Creighton rallied to within two points of the Marquette lead, their hitting percentage never climbed out of the negatives, and they lost the third set.

Set number four quickly turned into the Taylor Louis show. The redshirt freshman from Skokie, Illinois did to the Blue Jays almost exactly what Winters did to Marquette in the first set. She picked up nine kills and only two attack errors. Creighton would consistently send two blockers Louis’ way, but she was able to kill the ball as if they weren’t even there. She finished the match with 27 kills and almost singlehandedly delivered the fourth set to the Golden Eagles, which forced a decisive fifth frame.

After that point, the comeback finally fizzled out. Seven Golden Eagle hitting errors dashed any upset dreams and gave Creighton both a 15-10 set victory and a 3-2 match victory.

“We just didn’t seem to execute,” a remorseful Theis said of the fifth set.

This loss precludes Marquette from winning the BIG EAST and receiving an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Tournament. Their only hope of continuing the season lies in receiving one of the 32 at-large bids. At 21-11 and with wins over four Top 50 RPI programs, Marquette’s fate is now solely in the hands of the selection committee.

The volleyball postseason selection show airs on ESPNU at 8 p.m. on Sunday, at which time Marquette will learn whether or not they will go to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth year in a row.

Until then, all the Golden Eagles can do is wait.

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