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Volleyball moves on to Big East Championship match

Seton Hall Athletics

After setting the tone by taking the first two sets in the Big East semifinal match, it looked as if the Seton Hall volleyball team was on its way to the program's first championship game in 20 years.

But Big East Player of the Year Autumn Bailey and Marquette had something to say about that, proceeding to win the third and fourth sets, sending the match to a fifth and decisive game.

The two teams split the first ten points before the Pirates found control again. Junior Molly Grammer gave the blue and white the 8-6 lead, an advantage they did not give up in The Hall's 3-2 victory (25-23, 25-12, 19-25, 18-25, 15-11) over the Golden Eagles at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee.

"I'm so proud of these girls," Big East Coach of the Year Allie Yaeger said. "I knew this was going to go to five games. It normally always does against Marquette."

Grammer had the match-sealing kill, as she led the way for SHU's offense with 17 kills on the match, four of which came in the final set.

The Pirates went from a .022 attacking percentage in the fourth set to a .276 percentage in the fifth.

Senior All-Big East First Team selections Shelbey and Stacey Manthorpe sparked the defensive effort, combining for 59 digs while Big East Libero of the Year Tessa Fournier had 23 of her own.

"This group has so much resilience," Stacey Manthorpe said. "We've been through so much together that I knew we could pull it out. And we're a good team that hasn't received much credit for it at all." Manthorpe is appearing in her second Big East Tournament after going in her freshman year.

Stacey Manthorpe had 14 kills while Shelbey Manthorpe delivered five kills, but was instrumental offensively with 44 assists.

Dani Schroeder kept the Pirates in front with a kill to give SHU a 9-7 advantage. Two points later, Hansen delivered with her 10th of the night to make it 10-8. Hansen (11) and Schroeder (nine) combined for 20 kills on the night.

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Stacey Manthorpe tallied her final kill to extend the lead to four, 13-9. After the Golden Eagles got within two, the Pirates called a timeout that helped them to the final two points. A Marquette error ensued before the match-winner by Grammer.

"It comes down to heart," Stacey Manthorpe said. "We wanted to show everyone in the Big East that we could win this match."

The Pirates' first set win ended up coming up huge considering how the middle of the match went. The start was not in favor of the blue and white, though.

The Golden Eagles flew out to a 5-1 advantage, but the Pirates got back to within striking distance, trailing 18-15. It was at that moment that Grammer went on a roll, putting up three straight kills and tying the set up.

An error by Bailey gave the Pirates their first lead of the match, one they did not let go of to hang on and win the first set as Bailey committed an error with Marquette trailing 24-23.

SHU's Big East leading defense stayed hot in the second, holding Marquette to a .074 attacking percentage and Bailey to a negative percentage.

"From our defense to our attacking, when everyone is putting up big numbers, we are really a good team," Yaeger said. "This was a team win, and passing is the key to that. There's a certain unselfishness to that."

The Pirates closed out the second on a 9-1 run to take the second, 25-12.

The two teams were squared away at 15 in the third before Marquette went on a 7-1 run that helped them to the victory.

Up 12-10 in the fourth, Marquette found separation again, exploding on a 6-2 run that it would use to take the fourth.

Bailey finished with 14 kills and nine errors on the match, along with 17 digs. Courtney Kintzel delivered through the middle of Marquette's offense with 19 kills while Lindsey Gosh had 10 of her own. Leading the way for Marquette in digs was libero Lauren Houg, who had 35.

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?The Pirates will battle Creighton on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET for the Big East crown. The match will be televised to a national audience on Fox Sports 2.

The Hall beat the Bluejays in the regular season, edging them inside Walsh Gymnasium in a five-set match on Oct. 10 before sweeping the Bluejays in Omaha last Sunday.

Creighton's leader is two-time All-American Kelli Browning, who averaged a .357 attacking percentage and 3.23 kills per set in the regular season. She is accompanied by Lauren Smith, who has hit .314.

The top two blockers in the league will meet on Saturday. Browning averages 1.44 per set, which is second to Ashani Rubin (1.47 per set).

Creighton has won 18 of 20 and five of their eight losses have come against AP Top 25 teams. Two of those have come against SHU.

The Bluejays beat Xavier on Friday, 3-1. Marysa Wilkinson had 13 kills while Jess Bird had 10 and 11 digs in the win.

"Our team is good about taking a match as if we've never beaten an opponent before," Stacey Manthorpe said. "We have to stop Browning and we know that."

You can reach John Fanta at john.fanta@student.shu.edu or tweet @John_Fanta.

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