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Leah McNary (12), Kelli Browning (5) and Melanie Jereb (2).
Courtesy: Steven Branscombe

Volleyball Picked As BIG EAST Favorite; Trio Nab Preseason Honors

OMAHA, Neb.  -- The Creighton volleyball team has been picked to win the BIG EAST Conference, according to a poll of league coaches announced today. In addition, three Creighton women were named to the BIG EAST's Preseason All-Conference team, highlighted by Preseason Co-Player of the Year Kelli Browning.

It marks the first time a Creighton team has been picked to win a title in any BIG EAST sport, as well as the first time the Bluejay volleyball program has been picked to win any league.

Creighton received seven of a possible eight first-place votes in the poll, as coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team in the prognostications, and led the way with 63 points. Marquette nabbed the two remaining first-place votes and was second with 57 points. The rest of the poll consisted of Xavier (50), Seton Hall (38), St. John's (36), Butler (26), Villanova (25), DePaul (16) and Georgetown (13).

Creighton’s preseason prognosis of first place marks the 10th straight season of a top-five prediction in its league, after nine such accolades from the Missouri Valley Conference from 2004-12. In the previous 19 seasons (all in the MVC), Creighton has improved its preseason ranking 10 times, been ranked correctly five times, and dropped from preseason expectations just four times. Notably, nine of Creighton’s 10 previous teams under head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth have met or exceeded preseason poll predictions.

Browning was one of three Creighton players on the Preseason All-BIG EAST squad, joining Melanie Jereb and Leah McNary. The rest of the team consists of two players each from Marquette and Xavier, and one member from Butler, DePaul, Georgetown, St. John's and Seton Hall. Marquette's Elizabeth Koberstein shared Co-Player of the Year accolades with Browning.

Browning is a junior middle blocker who earned Honorable-Mention All-America honors last year during a banner campaign that also saw her named First Team All-MVC, First Team All-Region and MVC Defensive Player of the Year. She tied for the national lead with 204 blocks, and set CU single-season records for block assists, total blocks and hitting percentage.

Jereb is a sophomore outside hitter who last year became the first Bluejay named First Team All-MVC as a freshman. She was a three-time MVC Freshman of the Week and ranked third on Creighton's team in both kills and digs last season while starting all 33 matches.

McNary is a junior outside hitter who was a Second Team All-Valley pick in 2012 after leading Creighton in kills. She was also a member of the MVC All-Tournament Team.

Ranked No. 25 nationally in the 2013 AVCA Preseason Poll, Creighton returns four starters and nine letterwinners from last year’s team that went 29-4 and finished first in the MVC with a 17-1 mark.

The Bluejays opens their season this Friday with a contest vs. No. 13 BYU at the Hampton Inn Invitational in Bowling Green, Ohio, an event that also includes host Marquette and Bowling Green.

Preseason BIG EAST Poll
1.    Creighton (7)    63
2.    Marquette (2)    57
3..    Xavier    50
4.    Seton Hall    38
5.    St. John’s    36
6.    Butler    26
7.    Villanova    25
8.    DePaul    16
9.    Georgetown    13

Preseason All-BIG EAST Team
Erica Stahl, MB, Jr., Butler
#*Kelli Browning, MB, Jr., Creighton
*Melanie Jereb, OH, So., Creighton
Leah McNary, OH, Jr., Creighton
*Vesela Zapryanova, OH, Sr. DePaul
*Danielle White, MB, Jr., Georgetown
Lindsey Gosh, OH, Jr., Marquette
#*Elizabeth Koberstein, S, Sr., Marquette
Karin Palgutova, OH, Jr., St. John’s
*Shelby Manthorpe, S, Jr., Seton Hall
*Sarah Brown, OH, Sr., Xavier
*Alex Smith, MB, Sr., Xavier
*denotes unanimous selection
#Preseason Co-BIG EAST Player of the Year

Creighton’s Preseason Poll History
(MVC from 1994-2012; BIG EAST from 2013-Present)
Year    Pick    Finish    Move
1994    11th    9th    up 2
1995    9th    7th    up 2
1996    9th    6th    up 3
1997    8th    3rd    up 5
1998    6th    8th    down 2
1999    T-7th    5th    up 2
2000    4th    T-4th    - -
2001    2nd    4th    down 2
2002    7th    9th    down 2
2003    9th     T-5th    up 4
2004    5th    5th    - -
2005     5th    5th    - -
2006    4th    4th    - -
2007     3rd    T-2nd    up 1
2008     3rd    2nd    up 1
2009    4th    T-4th    - -
2010    4th    3rd    up 1
2011    3rd    4th    down 1   
2012    4th    1st    up 3
2013    1st    ???    ???
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