There’s something truly incredible when one peers upon greatness. A sports teams so unrelenting in their approach to winning the war, that it takes the collective imaginations of the spectators by surprise when first encountering it, then follows with an insatiable lust for more and more destruction. When sustained success begins to roll on for two consecutive sports seasons it’s difficult not to whisper, “dynasty,” lowly under your breath.
Since Creighton’s inaugural season in the BIG EAST, they’ve proceeded to increase their win total every year. In their first season they went 12-4 in conference. In the 2014 season, the volleys volleyed their way to a 16-2 and notched their first conference championship. In 2015, they did themselves one better, going 17-1, winning the conference and making it to the Sweet 16.
Now, on the cusp of conference supremacy, the Bluejays are attempting to attain a perfect conference season. 18-0. They’ve already locked up three consecutive regular season conference championships with their win over Providence last Sunday. Now all they need to become truly immortal for the rest of their lives is to beat Villanova.
Creighton led all but twice in the entirety of the first set, succumbing to a tie twice at 9-9 and 11-11. From there, however, it was all Creighton, especially with the talents of Jaali Winters absolutely obliterating the Widlcats. On 12 swings she was able to connect on 6 of them, hitting .500 for the first game. Only Taryn Kloth matched the number of swings at 12, with 4 kills and one service error, accumulating a .250 hitting percentage.
There were moment throughout the first match where Villanova looked like a formidable opponent, especially during an extensive rally that crossed the net 6 times. To see the level of competition offered this weekend in comparison to the Providence squad from just a week earlier was striking; Creighton actually had a challenge.
Yet it proved to be too little of a competition as the Jays were able to close out the first set at 25-22.
As I’d previously mentioned, Villanova is a pretty tough club. The Wildcats started rolling pretty good, managing to nab the lead for a but early on in the second set. They had the Jays flustered with some excellent serves one of which Jaali Winters. This forced Coach Booth’s hand as she took a timeout to regroup as the score sat tied at 6-6.
From there it was a relatively tight affair, with the lead waning and waxing. At times, Creighton looked unstoppable especially as libero Brittany Witt forced the ‘Cats into multiple service errors in a row.
The Jays lead swelled to 5 at 18-13, but Villanova ended up usupring the lead at 24-221. It appeared that the ‘Cats had all the momentum, and as errors began to pile up as the frustration began to set in, the Wildcats won the set 25-21.
It would be the first set Creighton lost since October 22nd against Marquette.
As a change of pace, Marysa Wilkinson would get the nod to start the set. As it was evident within the first few set-ups, Wilkinson was going to get a lion’s share of kill opportunities as she took three consecutive swings and connected on two of them.
There was a lot of misdirection for Creighton to start the set. Villanova was caught off balance by this different look, and proceeded to get into a 6-2 hole. They’d eventually fight and claw back to regain the lead at 9-8, which was immediately followed by a Bluejay timeout.
Jaali Winters came out of the timeout and immediately tied the game with a vicious spike, which would’ve registered just under the speed of sound. Villanova would re-take the lead off a missed block by the Jays’ middles.
From there it was a back and forth affair, with lots of errors and generally sloppy play. What we saw in the first set was crisp, unwavering volleys that would’ve made any volley fan proud. As the sets devolved into this one, it became a sloppy mess of generally poor play.
Eventually, Creighton rolled out to a 3 point lead after the see-saw of ties & leads began to veer on the side of the Jays, with exceptional play from Dimke, Winters, and Kloth.
This proved to be enough momentum to propel the Jays to a victory at 25-20.
I don’t know the story of David and Goliath, I just know of the story. From my understanding, David has his mighty slingshot and takes down Goliath by hitting him in the eye or crotch or something, right? Well, what took place in this penultimate fourth set was sort of like David instead aiming for the gut as he took his shots. If that was David’s gameplan, he’d get tired eventually, right?
Villanova was gassed. Whatever conditioning program the Jays are put through seems to have paid off in dividends, especially in this game. Villanova - bless their hearts - tried so god damn hard not to show fatigue but it was evident. There were dig opportunities presented to them all set that they had in the first three sets that just didn’t materialize in the fourth. There were serves that had lost some velocity, some just falling haplessly into the net. There were blocks that were thrown, but with the effort of a pool noodle.
It was relentless. From Winters to Dimke to Smith to Kloth, the middles just demoralized the poor Wildcats.
There was a few futile gasps of life for Villanova with Emma Decker serving. She managed to handcuff Winters on a serve that led to an error by the Jays; moving the needle to close the gap to 17-14. Eventually, the score was tied up at 20-20, but the errors continued to rear their ugly head for the beaten and fatigued lady vollers from outside of Philly.
The frustration of Villanova’s coach began to spill over as his player was called for a net violation. He whole heartedly disagreed and began berating a referee for the call, and in disgust he threw his notes down on the bench behind him. This sort of emotion from an adult cause the referee who sits up high to assess a yellow card. The tensions calmed and the volleys continued, but it was a hilarious transgression that brought a great deal of joy to me. I didn’t know these sorts of things occurred.
Villanova utilized this frustrated energy and built a one point lead at 23-22. Their gameplan to neutralize the sturdy Creighton middles was working to perfection as they amassed block after block, sending whatever Creighton tried to put over the net right back at them.
Villanova would go on to win the set, 25-22. Maybe David isn’t done yet?
There’s so much tension in this building right now you could send a tornado through and it’d still remain standing. This is unprecedented, as Creighton hasn’t lost a 5-set match to a BIG EAST team since... they played at Villanova last year.
Creighton got rolling early, with the help of Villanova’s Ashley Knight as she bounded one off the net to start the 5th. Taryn Kloth followed it up with a kill of her own to put the Jays up 2-0.
Villanova got on the board with a kill from Darcy Wolf, but were unable to stop the Bluejay momentum from there on out.
The Wildcats ended up committing 6 consecutive errors to put the Jays up 12-4. At that point, it was all over. There’s no coming back from 7 down, not against this team. David would have to wait another day to slay Goliath.
Creighton would win the 5th 15-6