OMAHA, Neb. — The four-time defending BIG EAST champion Creighton Volleyball team has been picked to finish second in the conference in a preseason poll of league coaches. It’s the first time Creighton has not been a league favorite since its final Missouri Valley Conference season in the fall of 2012.
Marquette returns 12-of-13 letterwinners and was tabbed the preseason favorite by league coaches, earning six first-place votes and 78 points overall. The Golden Eagles also boast the Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year in junior outside hitter Allie Barber. She’ll look to become the first Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year to win the league’s top honor at year’s end since 2013.
Creighton was just behind Marquette in second place with four first-place votes and 76 points overall. Butler was third with 60 points. The rest of the poll consisted of Villanova (57), Seton Hall (52), St. John’s (33), Xavier (33), Georgetown (24), Providence (23) and DePaul (14). Per league rule, coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team or their own student-athletes with their preseason prognostications.
The Bluejays return four starters and eight letterwinners from a 26-7 team that won the BIG EAST regular-season and tournament titles last fall while reaching a sixth straight NCAA Tournament. The Bluejays ended their season hosting matches in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history and finished the year ranked No. 16 in the final AVCA poll.
Creighton’s preseason prognosis of second place marks the 15th straight season of a top-five prediction in its league, after nine such accolades from the Missouri Valley Conference from 2004-12 before joining the BIG EAST in 2013. In the previous 24 seasons (19 in the MVC, five in the BIG EAST), Creighton has improved its preseason ranking 10 times, been ranked correctly nine times, and dropped from preseason expectations just five times. Notably, 13 of Creighton’s 15 previous teams under head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth have met or exceeded preseason poll predictions, and the two that didn’t dropped just a single slot.
Nine schools (all but Xavier) were represented on the 13-person Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, with Creighton (3) and Marquette (3) the only clubs with multiple selections.
Kloth averaged 3.00 kills per set on .270 hitting as the Sioux Falls, S.D., native collected Second Team All-BIG EAST acclaim last fall. This marks the second straight year she’s been named a unanimous selection to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. The 2017 Most Outstanding Player of the BIG EAST Championship helped prep for her senior season by spending 11 days in China with the US Collegiate National Team in May.
A senior from Ankeny, Iowa, Winters is a three-time First Team All-BIG EAST honoree after leading the Bluejays in kills each season since her arrival. Winters was named MVP of the 2016 BIG EAST Championships and has earned All-America honors each of the past three seasons. Winters averaged 3.37 kills per set last season and is one of three players in program history with more than 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs. This is the third straight season that Winters has been a unanimous Preseason All-BIG EAST honoree.
A junior from Omaha, Witt led Creighton with 4.24 digs per set last season. Her 500 digs ranked second in the league and helped her earn honorable mention All-America honors. The libero also led the team with 29 aces. This is the second straight year Witt has been named Preseason All-BIG EAST.
The Bluejays will report on Tuesday, Aug. 7, and begin practice a day later in preparation for this Saturday’s Blue-White Scrimmage at 3:30 pm. The team will also host Kansas State in a 6:30 pm exhibition on August 17 before the regular-season starts Aug. 24 at the Trojan Invitational with a match against Kentucky in Los Angeles, Calif.
Creighton will host 13 regular-season home matches, including contests against three NCAA Tournament national seeds from a year ago, in 2018. To inquire about season tickets, call (402) 280-JAYS.