The Creighton volleyball team needed only three sets to earn its second Big East Tournament championship in two seasons.
The Bluejays swept Villanova 25-18, 25-18, 25-17 on Saturday afternoon at D.J. Sokol Arena to become the first team to win the Big East Championship in consecutive years since Louisville won three titles from 2008-10.
“The opportunity to do it on our own home court is really awesome,” coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said. “We had a great crowd today and they’ve been such a great crowd all season; and it’s a huge factor.”
Creighton also hosted the tournament in 2013, but fell in five sets to Marquette in the title match.
On Saturday the Jays set the tone of the match with their play on defense.
Sophomore outside hitter Marysa Wilkinson recorded five blocks and the Bluejays had six blocks overall while holding Villanova to a .118 hitting percentage in the opening set.
Creighton duplicated its first set performance with 19 digs in the second and holding Villanova to only nine kills.
“I thought our defense was outstanding,” Booth said. “In fact, we talked after game two of how strong that was and we needed to continue to sustain that.”
The Jays never trailed in the second set and fell behind by only one point three different times during the entirety of the match.
The Bluejays ended the day with 49 digs and 11 team blocks.
Creighton’s offensive performance also helped lead the team to its 19th win in 20 matches against Big East opponents this season.
The Jays had 48 kills with a .286 hitting percentage.
“We followed game plan some of the best we’ve done all season and really attacked the areas of the court that we wanted to attack,” Booth said.
Freshman Jaali Winters had 18 kills to lead the Jays as she moved into second place in program history for kills in a single season (493), trailing only Leah Ratzlaff (516 in 2003).
Junior outside hitter Jess Bird earned Most Valuable Player honors with 14 kills on 32 swings for a .375 hitting percentage, eight digs and four blocks on Saturday.
Seniors Maggie Baumert and Kate Elman also earned spots on the All-Tournament team.
Creighton has won three tournament titles in four seasons, including the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference title.
“I have grown up through Creighton volleyball and to be here and top of the conference is just an awesome accomplishment,” Bird said.
The Bluejays also finished as regular-season champion with a 17-1 record; their only loss was on Oct. 30 against Villanova.
With the Big East Tournament Championship the Jays are the first Creighton women’s team to reach the NCAA Tournament in four consecutive seasons.
Creighton is 3-4 all-time in the NCAAs and has never won more than one game during an appearance.
“We’re not just going to the NCAA tournament just to be there, we want to go there and win some matches and do some things that Creighton volleyball has never done,” Booth said.
The selection show for the 2015 NCAA Tournament is Sunday at 8 p.m.