Creighton Named BIG EAST Volleyball Favorite

Marquette's Autumn Bailey

Marquette's Autumn Bailey
Aug. 20, 2014

2014 Composite Schedule

NEW YORK – With a roster boasting four returning seniors from last year’s NCAA Tournament squad and two Preseason All-BIG EAST selections, Creighton was tabbed the favorite in BIG EAST volleyball by topping the Preseason Coaches’ Poll announced by the league Wednesday afternoon. In addition, Marquette sophomore Autumn Bailey, the 2013 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year, was named Preseason Player of the Year and one of seven unanimous picks to the 13-member Preseason All-BIG EAST Team.

The Bluejays topped the poll with 77 points and five first-place votes, with defending champion Marquette taking four first-place ballots and totaling 71 points for second. Third went to Xavier with 66 points and the last remaining first-place vote, while Butler’s 58 points and St. John’s 50 rounded out the top half of the poll.

Seton Hall finished sixth with 43 points and Villanova captured 29 points for seventh. The poll was rounded out by Georgetown (25 points), DePaul (21) and Providence (10).

Voting for the poll and the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team was conducted by the league’s 10 head coaches who could not cast ballots for their own teams or student-athletes.

Bailey authored a remarkable rookie campaign that saw her capture honorable mention All-America and East Coast Region Freshman of the Year recognition from the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) alongside her Freshman of the Year and all-conference honors from the BIG EAST. The outside hitter led all players during BIG EAST play with 4.61 kills per set and was eighth hitting .306. The Burlington, Ontario, native played all 116 sets for the Golden Eagles and averaged 4.16 kills and 3.11 digs per frame.

Creighton (23-9, 12-4 BIG EAST in 2013) recently checked in at No. 23 in the AVCA Preseason Top 25 and has several significant players returning at critical positions. Middle blocker Kelli Browning and outside hitter Leah McNary, both seniors, were named Preseason All-BIG EAST after both were first-team all-conference selections last season. Browning was an honorable mention All-America pick and averaged 2.58 kills and 1.47 blocks in BIG EAST sets, while McNary posted a 3.02 kill-per-set ratio. In addition, the Bluejays return senior setter Michelle Sicner, another honorable mention All-American who averaged 9.72 assists in BIG EAST play. Kirsten Bernthal Booth enters her 11th season on the CU sideline.



Defending BIG EAST champion Marquette (26-6, 15-1) is far from a one-person show. Bailey is joined by teammates Meghan Niemann, a redshirt sophomore, and senior Lindsey Gosh, who were both unanimous Preseason All-BIG EAST selections. Niemann, also an honorable mention All-American, was first-team All-BIG EAST after hitting .368 and averaging 2.86 kills, while Gosh earned second-team honors (.289, 2.67 kills). The Golden Eagles received votes in the AVCA Preseason Top 25 and are under the guidance of head coach Ryan Theis, who enters his first season in Milwaukee after a successful six-year tenure at Ohio University.

Two of Xavier’s (20-12, 12-4) Preseason All-BIG EAST selections were honorable mention All-Americans in 2013. Setter Aubree Smith, a senior, was a first-team All-BIG EAST pick after averaging 11.3 assists and 3.1 digs per frame in conference play, while sophomore Abbey Bessler was named AVCA East Region Freshman of the Year while logging 4.23 kills and 3.37 digs in BIG EAST matches. Senior Alex Blair, another Preseason All-BIG EAST member, was a second-team All-BIG EAST pick a year ago. Head coach Mike Johnson enters his fifth season in Cincinnati.

Under the watchful eye of 15th-year head coach Sharon Clark, Butler (24-8, 11-5) has four prominent seniors returning from last year’s BIG EAST Tournament qualifier, including Preseason All-BIG EAST picks Belle Obert and Erica Stahl. Stahl, an honorable mention All-American, hit .276 in BIG EAST contests and Obert hit .256 with 3.22 kills per set in conference play. Both were named to the All-BIG EAST team a year ago.

St. John’s (16-16) finished 2013 .500 overall but is looking to rebound after a 5-11 BIG EAST record. Joanne Persico marks the start of her 21st season as head coach in Queens with a pair of outside hitters earning Preseason All-BIG EAST accolades in senior Aleksandra Wachovicz and junior Karin Palgutova. Palgutova averaged 4.33 kills and 2.58 digs in BIG EAST play, while Wachovicz hit .234 with 3.94 kills. Additionally, junior libero Shawna-Lei Santos averaged 5.19 digs per frame against conference opponents.

Should Seton Hall (16-15, 7-9) make a return to the BIG EAST Tournament for the first time since 2011, the Manthorpe twins will probably be major factors. Seniors Shelbey and Stacey were second-team All-BIG EAST in 2013, with the former earning Preseason All-BIG EAST honors. Shelbey averaged 9.0 assists and 3.3 digs per set a year ago in BIG EAST play, while Stacey went for 3.2 kills and 3.1 digs per frame. Head coach Allison Yaeger is in her third season with the Pirates.

Villanova (12-17, 4-12) has a balanced attack returning for eighth-year head coach Josh Steinbach. Junior outside hitter Lauren Carpenter drilled 3.51 kills and junior setter Emma Pettit dished 10.19 assists per frame against BIG EAST opponents.

Three key seniors look to lead Georgetown (11-18, 4-12) back to the BIG EAST Tournament for the first time since 2001. One of those three, middle blocker Dani White, was a second-team All-BIG EAST selection in 2013 after averaging 2.71 kills and picking up 58 blocks while playing all 16 conference matches. Arlisa Williams embarks on her ninth season as head coach.

Fifth-year head coach Nadia Edwards welcomes seven newcomers to the DePaul (16-14, 2-14) roster in 2014. Junior setter Colleen Smith netted 9.67 assists and 1.81 digs in BIG EAST play last season, and will pace an offense that includes classmate Callie Huebener (2.46 kps in conference play) at outside hitter. The Blue Demons are seeking their first BIG EAST Tournament berth in their 10th season since joining the conference.

Providence (12-20, 4-10 America East) is back in the BIG EAST for the first time since 2002. Margot Royer-Johnson enters her 15th season as head coach of the Friars with seniors Mackenzie Ziegler and Annie Russian leading the way. Ziegler averaged 2.71 kills and 1.48 digs per set in America East play a season ago, while Russian posted a 0.53 blocks-per-set ratio in conference matches.

Nine of 10 BIG EAST teams open their 2014 slates Friday, Aug. 29 in various tournaments. Preseason favorite Creighton is the first squad scheduled to hit the floor with a 10:30 a.m. ET start against Lipscomb at the Kansas Invitational in Lawrence, Kan. Defending champion Marquette hits the floor last on Aug. 30 in the Rams Volleyball Classic hosted by Colorado State. During the non-conference schedule BIG EAST teams have 38 matches set against 2013 NCAA Tournament squads.

BIG EAST play opens Sept. 23 with the Bluejays 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