Marquette falls to Creighton in BIG EAST Championship

Marquette+will+await+Selection+Sunday+to+see+if+it+gets+a+bid+into+the+NCAA+Volleyball+Tournament+%28Photo+Courtesy+of+Marquette+Athletics.%29

Marquette will await Selection Sunday to see if it gets a bid into the NCAA Volleyball Tournament (Photo Courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

The Marquette women’s volleyball team (10-4, 4-2 BIG EAST) fell to Creighton University (12-3, 7-1 BIG EAST) in the BIG EAST Conference Championship 3-1 Saturday afternoon.

The early afternoon match at D.J. Sokol Arena in Omaha, Nebraska, was well fought by the Golden Eagles, as they carried over momentum from yesterday’s semifinal match.

Senior right-side hitter and setter Taylor Wolf and senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Lines led Marquette in kills with 13 each. Senior outside hitter Hope Werch followed with 10 kills and 12 digs. Graduate student middle blocker Savannah Rennie added nine kills.

Head coach Ryan Theis said he has been pleased with the way the team has been able to come together this season.

“I was extremely proud of the way they held together through this extremely difficult year,” Theis said. “Through the pauses, through the breaks, through the new players showing up. … They did all that first class and I am just proud of their efforts and ability to stick together. So, to be playing for a championship at the end of all that, I was pretty happy with them.”

Marquette entered today’s match in search of their first BIG EAST Championship since 2013. They were knocked out by the reigning champions, St. John’s, in 2019.

The day began as it had left off yesterday for Marquette, as it breezed through set one with control. Services aces contributed to the team’s early success. The Golden Eagles tallied up four, with only two service errors. Wolf and sophomore outside hitter Hannah Vanden Berg each contributed two services aces. Wolf and Lines also added four kills to help Marquette cruise to a 25-18 win.

The Bluejays woke up in set two to keep the match tight and tested the Golden Eagles’ endurance. After many lead ties and exchanges, the Bluejays took nine out of the final 10 points. Junior middle blocker Annika Welty capitalized with a kill to get a 25-19 win to tie the match at 1-1.

Set three made for another very tight competition. Werch got the momentum going for MU with a kill after an impressive diving save from the back row. Marquette went on to take a comfortable 22-16 lead before CU made a surging comeback.

The BIG EAST Midwest Division No. 1 seed Creighton and the Midwest Division No. 2 seed Marquette were not budging towards the end of the set. Both teams threatened set point four times before Creighton claimed the set by a score of 31-29.

The Bluejays were led by the BIG EAST Conference Championship MVP, senior middle blocker Naomi Hickman, who notched a hitting percentage of .579 in the fourth set.

The Bluejays got out to an early scoring run, forcing the Golden Eagles to play from behind. However, Theis worked hard on the sideline to get the Golden Eagles fired up, which led to a Werch ace to pull the team to within three down the stretch. Rennie and Wolf both added kills to add more pressure, but the Bluejays’ numbers in the fourth set were too dominant. They tallied 16 blocks, 12 kills and only one error on 19 attempts to take the set 25-22.

“Hats off to Creighton. I think the third set was kind of the back breaker,” Theis said. “They fought hard and came back. We knew they make it tough to score. We had opportunities to climb back in, in the fourth, and opportunities to close out the third and we didn’t take advantage of those.”

Jaela Zimmerman led the way for Creighton, posting 16 kills and 43 attacks, followed by Welty and Hickman with 12 kills each. CU had a hitting percentage of .191%, while MU finished at .169%.

The 2021 BIG EAST Conference champions have now regained the title after a five-year stint from 2014-2018. With the title, Creighton also received an automatic bid to the NCAA Volleyball Tournament, which will be taking place down the road from their home court at the CHI Health Center Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska. First and second rounds of the tournament are set to begin on April 14 and 15, respectively.

Marquette will now look for a bid of its own during the Selection Show, which will take place Easter Sunday.

“We are in the mix, some of our nonconference wins are valuable,” Theis said. “We’ve got a chance; I hope (the committee) saw what we were capable of. If we get 10 more days to practice, maybe make some noise if we get in.”

This story was written by Molly Gretzlock. She can be reached at Molly.gretzlock@marquette.edu or on Twitter @MollyGretzlock.