Creighton Athletics The No. 9 Creighton women's volleyball team claimed its fifth consecutive BIG EAST Championship title with a 26-28, 25-22, 25-21 and 25-21 victory against No. 16 Marquette on Saturday night at D.J. Sokol Arena in Omaha, Neb.
Creighton is the first school to win five straight BIG EAST Championship titles since Pittsburgh won seven straight from 1988-94. Creighton is also the nation's only team to win a conference tournament each of the last five seasons.
The Bluejays claimed their 20th consecutive victory and improved to 28-4 overall while earning the BIG EAST's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Jaali Winters and Taryn Kloth each recorded 19 kills to pace the Bluejays. Winters claimed BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player honors after posting 32 kills and 33 digs during two matches.
Naomi Hickman joined Winters and Madelyn Cole on the BIG EAST All-Tournament Team. Hickman tallied a career-best nine blocks as the Bluejay totaled 11.5 stuffs on Saturday, and Cole averaged 12.71 assists, 3.57 digs and 0.57 aces per set.
Saturday's first set featured 22 ties and 13 lead changes before Marquette outlasted Creighton, but the Bluejays did not trail during the second set on their way to a three-point victory and earned back-to-back four-point wins to end the match.
Neither team led by more than two points at any point in the first set. Marquette led 21-20 before Hickman had a hand in consecutive blocks to help Creighton retake the lead. The Jays added a kill from Winters to move ahead 23-21 before MU scored three points in a row to earn a set point opportunity at 24-23. Creighton saved another set point when trailing 25-24, then was unable to convert on a set point chance of its own with a 26-25 lead. The Golden Eagles turned the tables with two straight kills by Jenna Rosenthal and a third by Ellie Koontz to snap Creighton's 25-set win streak. Hope Werch had seven of MU's 21 kills in the first set as the Golden Eagles hit .314.
Creighton did not trail in the second set, racing to leads of 7-2 and 12-4 as Winters took over the match with seven kills and a block in that sequence. The lead grew to 20-10 before MU's Sarah Rose authored a 7-0 run that featured three service aces before she served long. MU got as close as 24-22 before Taryn Kloth's found a seam to even the match heading to intermission.
Kloth carried the heavy load in the third set with eight kills in 11 swings as Creighton won a 25-21 frame. Marquette led 9-4 early before Creighton answered with an 11-2 run to move ahead 15-11. Creighton trailed 19-18 before Cole served up two aces as part of a five-point run that helped Creighton take a 23-19 lead. Winters closed out the set with a kill.
Marquette scored the first three points of the fourth set, only to see Creighton score the next four and not trail again. A 4-0 run at the service line by Winters padded the Bluejay lead to 14-8, and Kloth and Hickman stuffed 2017 BIG EAST Player of the Year Allie Barber as CU moved ahead 19-12. Kloth would finish the championship with a kill on match point, much to the delight of the partisan crowd of 2,242.
Winters had 19 kills and 17 digs for her 16th double-double of the fall, and seventh in as many matches against a top-25 foe this season. Cole notched a double-double with 48 assists and a season-best 18 digs. Also contributing a season-high in digs was freshman Jaela Zimmerman, who turned in a dozen scoops in her first start since late September. Creighton finished with 62 kills, six aces, 73 digs and 11.5 blocks on .275 hitting.
Barber topped MU with 20 kills, hitting .262 in 42 swings, while Werch finished with 14 kills. Rose recorded a double-double with 26 assists and 11 digs, while Martha Konovodoff collected a match-best 19 digs. The Golden Eagles hit .222 and finished with 61 kills, seven aces, 70 digs and eight blocks.
The 2018 NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship Selection Show is scheduled for Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Central and will be televised on ESPNU. Creighton fans and media are invited to join the volleyball student-athletes and coaches at D.J.'s Dugout (1003 Capitol Street) to watch the show.