The Creighton volleyball team has been picked to win the BIG EAST Conference, according to a poll of league coaches announced today. In addition, Creighton seniors Leah McNary and Kelli Browning were both named to the BIG EAST's Preseason All-Conference team for the second straight fall.
This is the second straight season that Creighton was picked to win the BIG EAST. Last year's team tied for second place with a 12-4 league ledger.
Creighton received five of a possible nine first-place votes in the poll and led the way with 77 points. Defending champ Marquette nabbed four first-place votes and was second with 71 points. Xavier also tallied a first place vote and was third with 66 points. Rounding out the rest of the poll were Butler (58), St. John's (50), Seton Hall (43), Villanova (29), Georgetown (25), DePaul (21) and Providence (10). Providence rejoins the BIG EAST in volleyball for the first time since 2002 after spending recent seasons in the America East Conference.
Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team in the prognostications, or their own student-athletes for the all-conference squad.
Browning and McNary both return after landing First Team All-BIG EAST laurels in 2013. Browning has led the team in blocks and hitting percentage each of the last two years, while McNary has led the team in kills each of the past two years. Marquette's Autumn Bailey was tabbed Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year.
Creighton’s preseason prognosis of first place marks the 11th straight season of a top-five prediction in its league, after nine such accolades from the Missouri Valley Conference from 2004-12. In the previous 20 seasons (19 in the MVC, last year in the BIG EAST), Creighton has improved its preseason ranking 10 times, been ranked correctly five times, and dropped from preseason expectations just five times. Notably, nine of Creighton’s 11 previous teams under head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth have met or exceeded preseason poll predictions, and the two that didn't dropped just one spot.
Ranked No. 23 nationally in the 2014 AVCA Preseason Poll, Creighton returns six starters and 12-of-13 letterwinners from last year’s team that went 23-9 and finished second in its debut campaign in the BIG EAST.
The Bluejays opens their season next Friday with a contest vs. preseason Atlantic Sun Conference favorite Lipscomb at the Kansas Invitational in Lawrence, Kan., an event that also includes Utah Valley and the nation's No. 22-ranked team, host Kansas.
BIG EAST play opens Sept. 23 with Creighton heading to Georgetown. The top four teams in the regular-season standings will advance to the 2014 BIG EAST Volleyball Championship presented by New York Life Friday-Saturday, Nov. 28-29 hosted by Marquette at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee. The winner will earn the BIG EAST’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Coaches’ Poll
Creighton – 77 (5 first-place votes)
Marquette – 71 (4)
Xavier – 66 (1)
Butler – 58
St. John’s – 50
Seton Hall – 43
Villanova – 29
Georgetown – 25
DePaul – 21
Providence – 10
BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
Autumn Bailey, Marquette, So., OH
Preseason All-BIG EAST Team *
Autumn Bailey, Marquette, So., OH ^
Abbey Bessler, Xavier, So., OH ^
Alex Blair, Xavier, R-Sr., MB
Kelli Browning, Creighton, Sr., MB ^
Lindsey Gosh, Marquette, Sr., RS ^
Shelbey Manthorpe, Seton Hall, Sr., S
Leah McNary, Creighton, Sr., OH
Meghan Niemann, Marquette, R-So., MH ^
Belle Obert, Butler, Sr., OH ^
Karin Palgutova, St. John’s, Jr., OH
Aubree Smith, Xavier, Sr., S ^
Erica Stahl, Butler, Sr., MB
Aleksandra Wachowicz, St. John’s, Sr., OH
* - 13 members because of a tie in the voting
^ - unanimous selection