By: Robert Jamieson
While most of us were home this Thanksgiving weekend spending time with our families and stuffing our faces with pumpkin pie, Xavier volleyball played in its first Big East Tournament.
After a year of records and highlights, the team’s season ended on a sour note with a big semifinal loss to host-team Creighton (25-20, 25-19, 22-25, 25-17).
Xavier finished the season with a 21-11 record, the fourth consecutive 20-win season for head coach Mike Johnson.
It was a tough match against the NCAA tournament bound Creighton squad, but Johnson was very proud of his team’s effort.
“I am most proud of our team for being in that position, down 0-2, where it would have been easy to throw in the towel, we fought. In the fourth game, we came out and battled and fought again. I feel like we were fighting until the very last point. As a coach, you just can’t ask for more than that from your team,” Johnson said.
The first two sets were determined by a few key Creighton runs that Xavier was unable to overcome.
XU fought hard in the third set, completing a late run of its own with the score at 17 all.
Led by the defensive and offensive prowess of senior middle blocker Alex Smith, the Musketeers took four of the next five points to take the set, 25-22.
Xavier could not capitalize on the momentum from the third set, however, as Creighton jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, taking the fourth and final set, 25-17.
Redshirt sophomore libero Lauren Metzger was the bright spot for Xavier in the match, posting a team high 27 digs and earning a spot on the All-Tournament Team.
The postseason accolades did not stop there for the Musketeers. Four members of the XU volleyball team earned recognition on the All-Big East Conference team.
Alex Smith, junior setter Aubree Smith and freshman outside hitter Abbey Bessler were each named to the first team while redshirt junior middle blocker Alex Blair earned a spot on the second team.
Bessler’s season was one of the most prolific freshman campaigns in Xavier history.
She was a regular on the conference’s weekly honor roll and was named the Big East Rookie of the Week twice.
Bessler is known more for her offensive production with her 441 kills this season, ranking just outside the top 10 single-season marks. She also showed an excellent defensive ability with a season total of 368 digs.
Aubree Smith averaged 10.87 assists per set, which ranked second in the conference this season and 43rd in the country.
Alex Smith and Blair were the backbone of the Xavier squad all year. Blair averaged a league-best 1.5 blocks per set in conference matches.
Throughout the entire season, Alex Smith was the focal point of the team and continued to re-write the Xavier record books.
She led the conference and ranked 13th in the country with a .415 hitting percentage this year, which could end up as the greatest single season mark in Xavier history.
The records do not stop there. After already breaking Xavier’s record for most matches played with 139, Smith’s career-hitting percentage of .356 is the highest ever in Xavier history by 20 points.
Although the Musketeers will not end up meeting their ultimate goal of making the NCAA tournament, this season has been nothing short of impressive.
This team was one of the most successful and the most underappreciated teams we have at Xavier.
As Johnson continues to bring in elite recruiting classes to join XU’s young talent, look for Xavier volleyball to be a force for years to come.