The stage is set in Omaha, Nebraska for this weekend’s Big East Tournament on November 27 and 28. Four teams – Creighton, Villanova, Xavier, and Marquette will battle it out for conference supremacy.
Schedule (All Times are Eastern Standard Time):
Semi Finals, Friday, November 27 (Big East Digital Network/FoxSportsGo.com)
#1 Creighton (3), #4 Marquette (2)
#2 Villanova (3), #3 Xavier (0)
Championship Game, Saturday, November 28 (Fox Sports 2/FoxSportsGo.com)
#1 Creighton vs. #2 Villanova, 3 p.m.
Here’s a quick look at each of the teams that will be in attendance:
Record: 23-8, 17-1 in Big East
Head Coach: Kirsten Bernthal Booth (13th season)
Key Players for Creighton: #4 Maggie Baumert (6-2) Sr., S; #5 Jaali Winters (6-2) Fr., OH; #16 Lauren Smith (6-4) Jr., MB
Outlook: There’s no doubt that Creighton will be the favorite going in. The Bluejays are the defending Big East Tournament champions, and have secured back-to-back regular season titles. Their only blemish in what would otherwise be a perfect record in conference play would be a loss to Villanova on the road. However, they won’t need to worry about that, as they will be playing in front of their fans as hosts of the tournament. Creighton is a great team all-around, with a few weaknesses on offense and defense. Jaali Winters has made an immediate impact in her first season, proving to already be one of the best attackers in the conference. Winters boasts the second best kill total in the conference with 454. She claimed First Team All-Big East and Big East Freshman of the Year honors. It also helps to have a fellow Big East First Teamer in Maggie Baumert setting her up. Creighton doesn’t make too many mistakes with the most accurate offense in the Big East, teams will need their ‘A’ game at D.J. Sokol Arena to knock them down.
Record: 24-7, 14-4 in Big East
Head Coach: Josh Steinbach (9th season)
Key Players for Villanova: #28 Allie Loitz (6-3) So., OH; #4 Emma Pettit (5-10) Sr., S; #15 Gabby Pethokoukis (6-4) RS-Jr., MB
Outlook: Originally projected to finish seventh in the Big East, the Wildcats are enjoying one of their best seasons in program history. Villanova has a terrific blend of newcomers and veterans that have really come together to help make this season happen. The arrival of Pepperdine transfer Allie Loitz has been huge for Villanova. Loitz was an unanimous First Team All-Big East pick this year. She has a team-high 385 kills and a conference-best 44 service aces. She can also contribute on defense by racking up digs and adding some blocks. At 6-foot-4, Gabby Pethokoukis adds a physical presence as one of the top blockers in the Big East, and she can even contribute on the offensive end. Emma Pettit is one of the best setters in the country (20th in NCAA for assists) and will look to distribute to any one of the five Wildcats with 200+ kills. Aside from Loitz and Pethokoukis, Lauren Carpenter, Claire Crutchfield, and Amanda Pedersen-Henry have eclipsed the 200 mark. It has taken a complete team effort to get this far, and they have shown that anyone can step up to have a big game. It hasn’t always been the same person carrying the team or leading the offense night in and night out.
Record: 18-11, 14-4 in Big East
Head Coach: Christy Pfeffenberger (1st season)
Key Players for Xavier: #8 Abbey Bessler (6-2) Jr., OH; #14 Kristen Massa (6-1) So., OH; #2 Sofia Peterson (6-0) RS-Jr., RS
Outlook: In her first season as head coach, Christy Pfeffenberger has taken the Musketeers back to the Big East Tournament. Last year, Xavier was knocked off in the opening round by eventual winner Creighton. This time around, they hope to advance to the final for a chance to get their revenge if the Bluejays advance. The Musketeers are led by Big East Player of the Year Abbey Bessler. Kessler is a complete player who helps the Musketeers out on offense and defense. She cracked the 1,000 point and 1,000 dig club earlier this season. She does nearly everything for the Musketeers on the floor. It’s far from a one-person show, as there’s a solid supporting cast around Bessler. Kristen Massa has the second highest kill total with 268, just one more than what she finished with last season. Sofia Peterson and Lauren Frilling are two accurate hitters, currently ranked 15th and 16th in hitting percentage. Meredith Klare leads the back row as one of the better defenders, she’s enjoying a solid season in her first year on the court.
Marquette Golden Eagles
Record: 21-10, 12-6 in Big East
Head Coach: Ryan Theis (2nd season)
Key Players for Marquette: #16 Taylor Louis (6-2) RS-Fr., OH; #7 Meghan Niemann (6-1) RS-Jr., MH; #17 Lauren Houg (5-7) Jr., L/DS
Outlook: The Golden Eagles have struck gold in redshirt freshman Taylor Louis. Louis has been a scoring machine this season, etching her name amongst the all-time kills list at Marquette. Not only does she lead her team in the kills department, but also the Big East. Louis sits atop the conference with 540 kills (4.86 per set). She has nearly a hundred more than Creighton’s Jaali Winters who sits in second. With the all the offensive firepower in Louis’ arm, the Golden Eagles will need the defense to complement her. Junior Lauren Houg provides just that. Houg surpassed the 1,000 dig milestone earlier this year, becoming only the eighth player ever in program history to achieve such a feat. She is one of the best at what she does in the conference, and maybe even the country. Marquette also has some support in their middle hitters Meghan Niemann and Jenna Rosenthal. They are both contributors on both sides of the game, offensively and defensively. At 6-foot-6, Rosenthal is hard to miss, and it won’t be easy getting the ball past her. Marquette has a chance to take the crown away from the team that took it from them in the first place, the Creighton Bluejays.