Volleyball Looks for First BIG EAST Tourney Title
Nov. 26, 2013
MILWAUKEE - No. 24 Marquette begins its quest for another program first as the squad travels D.J. Sokol Arena in Omaha, Neb., for the 2013 BIG EAST Conference Women's Volleyball Championship on Friday, Nov. 29 to face fourth-seeded Butler in the tournament semifinals.
The Golden Eagles (23-5, 15-1 BIG EAST) claimed the league's top seed after a dominating conference season, which included 12 straight victories to close out the regular season. MU won the league regular season title for the first time in program history by three matches over both Creighton and Xavier, each of whom ended conference play at 12-4.
Marquette is 5-5 all time in BIG EAST tournament action and has advanced to the semifinals in each of the last four seasons and five times overall. MU, which hosted the event the last two years at the Al McGuire Center, made its lone trip to the title match last season and fell to then-No. 10 Louisville, 3-0.
An offensive juggernaut in league play, the Golden Eagles hit a combined .309 against conference foes and .287 overall, the 10th-best mark in the nation. The offense is led by senior setter Elizabeth Koberstein, who averages a league-best 12.22 assists per set to rank third in NCAA Division I and is fourth in MU history with 2,689 assists in her career.
A trio of freshman hitters has powered Marquette to new heights in 2013 with especially increased production in league action. Six-time BIG EAST Freshman of the Week Autumn Bailey leads the squad with 4.29 kills and 4.89 points per set, but averages 4.61 kills and 5.35 points per set against conference mates, both tops in the league. Fellow outside hitter Nele Barber saw an uptick in court time during BIG EAST matches and posted 3.22 kills per set against BIG EAST institutions.
Redshirt freshman middle hitter Meghan Niemann sits third in the BIG EAST with an attack percentage of .340 and is hitting .368 in league action.
Live statistics of all tournament matches and free online video streams will be available courtesy of GoCreighton.com.
For additional coverage, follow Marquette volleyball on Twitter (@MarquetteVB).
SCOUTING THE COMPETITION:
vs. BUTLER [24-7 (11-5 BIG EAST) | RPI: 41 | ButlerSports.com | @ButlerVB]: The Bulldogs, who were picked sixth in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches Poll concluded the regular season in fourth place with a league record of 11-5. Marquette topped Butler in four sets on Friday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 23 and was pushed to extra points in five of the eight frames played. Butler limits opponents to a league-low .156 hitting percentage and ranks second in the league and fifth in the nation with 2.99 blocks per set. Junior outside hitter Belle Obert leads the Bulldogs with 3.41 kills per set to sit sixth in the BIG EAST. Obert had 18 kills in Saturday's match against Marquette and hit .472 in the loss, while Mary Striedl is averaging a team-best 3.50 kills per set against MU in 2013. MU freshmen Nele Barber and Autumn Bailey are averaging 5.12 and 4.88 kills per set, respectively, against the Bulldogs this season, while Elizabeth Koberstein sits at 14.75 assists per frame. Series history: BU leads 6-3.
POSSIBLE TITLE MATCH OPPONENTS:
vs. XAVIER [21-10 (12-4 BIG EAST) | RPI: 53 | GoXaiver.com | @XavierVball]: The Musketeers, who have reached the 20-win plateau for the fifth-straight year, are led by sisters Alex and Aubree Smith. Alex leads the BIG EAST with a .415 attack percentage, while Aubree sits second in assists per set with 10.87 per frame. Outside hitter Abbey Bessler sits fourth in the league with 3.77 kills per set. Marquette defeated Xavier in four sets in both of the meetings this season. Series history: MU leads 7-5.
at CREIGHTON [21-7 (12-4 BIG EAST) | RPI: 16 | GoCreighton.com | @CreightonVB]: The Bluejays have recorded wins against five teams that have been ranked at some time during the 2013 season and split both matches with Marquette. Creighton swept MU in Omaha on Oct. 13 and fell in a sweep themselves in Milwaukee on Oct. 25. The Jays earned the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament are lead in kills by junior Leah McNary, who chips in 3.06 kills per set. Junior middle blocker Kelli Browning (1.52 blocks per set) paces a CU frontline that leads the nation with 3.10 blocks per set. The last five contests between MU and CU have all ended in sweeps. Series history: CU leads 4-2.
QUICK HITS/RECENT PROGRAM HISTORY:
The Golden Eagles are ranked for the first time in program history in the AVCA Coaches Poll at No. 24 and are receiving 129 points (Nov. 25). MU is also 10th in the NCAA Division I RPI Rankings (Nov. 25) and on the AVCA's 2013 NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship First and Second Round Host Watch List.
Marquette has reached the 20-win plateau for the fourth-straight season under Shymansky and the fifth time in program history overall.
This year's senior class is a combined 97-33 (51-8 BIG EAST) and has increased its conference victory total each year at Marquette (2010:11-3; 2011: 12-2; 2012: 13-2; 2013: 15-1). It is the best four-year stretch in MU history.
Senior defensive specialist Rachel Stier became the seventh player in Marquette history to reach the 1,000-dig plateau on Friday, Nov. 22 against Xavier. Classmate Julie Jeziorowski holds MU's all-time record with 2,121 digs.
Elizabeth Koberstein is fourth in Marquette history in assists with 2,689 in just under two years with the program.
Autumn Bailey has won BIG EAST Freshman of the Week honors six times (9/2, 9/9, 9/23, 10/7, 10/28, 11/25), while Nele Barber has won it twice (10/21 and 11/4). Bailey needs just five kills for sole possession of MU's all-time freshman kills mark (Ann Lopata, 437 in 2000).
Marquette was picked second in the 2013 BIG EAST Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll for the second-straight season and senior setter Elizabeth Koberstein was named preseason co-player of the year.
Bond Shymansky entered the 2013 season 20th among active NCAA Division I head coaches in winning pct.
UP NEXT: The Golden Eagles will find out if they have earned a bid to host NCAA tournament matches during the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 8:30 p.m. Central time. The bracket will be unveiled live on ESPNU and Marquette will host a watch party at the Union Sports Annex on the corner of 16th Street and Wells Street, beginning at 8 p.m.