After sweeping Xavier yesterday in the Big East semis, Villanova was rewarded with the tough task of dethroning the defending champion Creighton Bluejays at their own court.
The regular season series had been split, with each team taking home a win.
Creighton, who was almost upset yesterday by Marquette, made sure to avoid making the same mistakes as yesterday.
The Bluejays closed the deal, beating the Wildcats in three straight sets. Creighton won 25-18, 25-18, 25-17, to win back-to-back Big East titles.
It was a game of runs, as Creighton would get off to big spurts to take the lead. The first set started pretty evenly, one team would match the other in order to stay right behind each other. However, a 6-0 run would give the Bluejays a comfortable lead. Creighton was crisp on both offense and defense, hitting at an accurate rate and denying Villanova points by racking up blocks. Creighton’s Marysa Wilkinson had four blocks during the 6-0 run.
Villanova would play evenly with Creighton, but the lead was too much to overcome. The Bluejays took the first set 25-18.
In the second set, Villanova fell behind to start as Creighton raced out to a 14-6 lead. The Wildcats would eventually inch back into the game by closing it down to a 14-11 deficit. The Bluejays would get off to another 5-1 run to stop the Wildcats from gaining momentum. From there, they would finish things off and claim the second set.
Big East Freshman of the Year Jaali Winters was as advertised, getting nine kills in the second set alone.
In the third set, the Wildcats kept it close once again to start. Villanova went to a balanced approach by spreading the wealth, various players scored to get them going. Mistakes by Creighton and well executed attacks by the Wildcats kept it close.
Eventually, Creighton was able to get on a few runs to close the third set and eventually capture it.
Allie Loitz led Villanova with nine kills and three digs. Emma Pettit contributed 24 assists and four digs. Amanda Pedersen-Henry and Gabby Pethokoukis had seven kills each. Allison Fitzgerald led the defensive effort with 19 digs. Both Loitz and Pettit were named to the all-tournament team.
For Creighton, Jaali Winters had a game-high 18 kills. Tournament MVP Jess Bird added 14 kills and eight digs. Maggie Baumert finished with 39 assists and 10 digs.
The Wildcats are now 25-8. They have shattered the expectations placed before them by outside parties and hope to extend their season with their first NCAA Tournament bid, if they can get one. With the Bluejays earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats’ fate is left in the hands of the selection committee.
They will be watching tomorrow night’s Selection Sunday show which will be on ESPNU at 9 p.m. EST.
Big East Tournament All-Tournament Team:
Abbey Bessler, Xavier
Amanda Pedersen-Henry, Villanova
Emma Pettit, Villanova
Taylor Louis, Marquette
Kate Elman, Creighton
Maggie Baumert, Creighton
Jess Bird, Creighton
Big East Tournament MVP: Jess Bird, Creighton