The Creighton Bluejays have a point they'd like to make this weekend at the Big East volleyball tournament.
Victories over Xavier on Friday and in the title match Saturday would send that message, sophomore rightside hitter Melanie Jereb said.
“We'd show people we're a top team in the Big East, and we deserve to go to the NCAA tournament," Jereb said.
With a No. 16 RPI, the Bluejays look like a lock to advance no matter how they do this weekend. However, if they want to sew up a host role in the NCAA tournament, a victory in Friday's 6:30 p.m. match at D.J. Sokol Arena and another Saturday at 5 p.m. against the Butler-Marquette winner would be huge.
In the last five NCAA tournaments, 64 of the 80 teams with a Selection Sunday RPI in the top 16 have been selected to host.
“If we win the (Big East) tournament, we have a very strong case to host the first round," coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said. “That's a tall order."
Any of the four teams is capable of winning the title, Booth and Jereb said. No one has made it through the conference season unscathed.
Top-seed Marquette (23-5, 15-1) lost it's only conference match back in October to second-seeded Creighton (21-7, 12-4). Third-seed Xavier is 21-10 and 12-4 and Butler is 24-7, 11-5.
For the Bluejays to be successful in their first Big East tournament, Jereb said they will need to stay focused.
“We're working on playing a smarter offense and not making unforced errors," she said. “When we go up to swing, think of ways to put the ball down or put the other team out of system."
Jereb, a six-rotation player from Cary, Ill., has a hand in every facet of the game. She's hitting .187, with 0.42 set assists, 2.41 digs and 0.55 blocks per set.
As much as she enjoys hitting and blocking, she relishes her moments on defense. She said it's fun to steal the spotlight from those superstar hitters on the other side with a good dig.
“Hitters get all the glory,” she said. “It's a good challenge.”
Xavier has some big hitters, Jereb said. So does Creighton, and Booth said a big factor will be getting them all involved in the attack. That chore will fall on setter Michelle Sicner.
The Bluejays have worked this week to improve their .219 hitting percentage. Unforced errors, a bugaboo this season, have been a focus. There's been some improvement in backcourt defense.
Booth got some big news this week, too, that the Bluejays' 3.10 blocks per set jumped to No. 1 in the country.
“I definitely felt like we took some much needed steps forward and have some things to feel good about," Booth said. “That is great."
The Bluejays' demanding nonconference schedule could also give them a boost this weekend. A five-set match with then No. 7 Hawaii is the highlight of Jereb's season so far.
“The tough matches show us we're fighters," she said. “It's reassuring to know we can fight and win.”