CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The Creighton Volleyball team took a giant step towards its first MVC title with a 3-2 victory at three-time defending league champion Northern Iowa on Saturday night. Scores of the match in favor of CU were 25-18, 25-23, 11-25, 17-25, 15-8.
The win extended Creighton's (22-3, 13-1 MVC) record win streak to 10 straight, while also establishing a school-record for wins in a season with 22. UNI fell to 21-8 (12-3 MVC) after dropping its first home match in MVC play since 2008.
Creighton dominated the first set, quickly taking a 9-5 lead and never looking back. Creighton had more kills (19-11), blocks (2-0) and digs (24-15) in the frame, led by a balanced Bluejay attack. Leah McNary had eight kills to lead the offense, Megan Bober distributed 17 assists and Brooke Boggs had nine digs to lead the defense.
Creighton built on their edge to take the second set, 25-23, and own a 2-0 lead at intermission. It was a set of runs, and Creighton made the most important one. With the score knotted at 20-all, the Jays went on a 3-0 run, then traded sideouts to win the frame on McNary's 10th kill of the evening. Kelli Browning had four blocks in the set, helping to hold the Panthers to .136 hitting in 44 swings.
UNI grasped the momentum in the third set, breaking free from a 7-all tie with four straight points to kick-start a 13-1 flurry that buried the Bluejays. The Panthers held the Jays to .028 hitting in the set while owning a 15-7 advantage in kills during the set.
The Panthers remained in control in the fourth set, taking a 25-17 game, while hitting .349. The Panthers had 18 kills against just three errors to force the decisive fifth set.
The fifth set was as close as you could expect from two teams with postseason aspirations, as it was tied at 1-1, 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4 before kills by Browning and McNary gave the Jays a 6-4 lead and prompted a Panther timeout. The teams would change sides with Creighton in front, 8-5 on Bober's 10th kill of the night.
Following the timeout, McNary slammed her 18th kill to make it 9-5, only to have Macy Ubben answer with her 11th kill to trim the Panther deficit to three. The teams traded three straight sideouts to make it 11-7 in favor of the visitors and Krista DeGeest then hit it wide to make it 12-7, followed by a Megan Lehman attack error for CU's 13th point. Heather Thorson had a kill to make it 14-8, and Jereb provided a kill on match point.
Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth was thrilled with her team's performance after the contest. "I love this team because they are mentally tough," said Booth. "I thought we got tentative in sets three and four. We talk about being the aggressor...and they stepped up to the challenge."
McNary finished with 19 kills, while Jereb had 15 kills and 15 digs. Bober had her second consecutive triple-double, finishing with 47 assists, 14 digs and 10 kills. Browning also had a big match late, finishing with nine kills and a match-best seven blocks. Defensively, senior Boggs had a career-high 24 digs while Kate Elman tallied 21 digs. Creighton finished the night with 63 kills, three aces, 91 digs and 10 blocks on .223 hitting.
Following the contest Booth credited her seniors for leading the way. "We have incredible leadership this year. These seniors (Bober, Boggs, Thorson and Brittany Moon) are hard workers on the court and in the classroom. They also want to win incredibly bad and that has rubbed off on this team. I couldn't ask for better leaders."
DeGeest paced the Panthers with 19 kills on .375 hitting, while Lehman had 14 kills. Shelby Kintzel had 13 kills, while Ubben finished with 11 kills and 12 digs. In addition, Molly Turk had 49 assists and 10 digs in the match. Candice Burke led all players with 26 digs. UNI finished with 65 kills, three aces, 96 digs and eight blocks on .232 hitting.
Creighton will host its final two home contests of the season next weekend, beginning with a 5 pm match (note new time) on Friday vs. Indiana State. Seniors Boggs, Bober, Heather Thorson and Brittany Moon will be honored prior to Saturday's Senior Night match vs. Illinois State that begins at 7 pm.
This is the first time Creighton has beaten Northern Iowa twice in the same season ... Creighton has won in Cedar Falls three times, all in five sets ... Megan Bober has 50 career double-doubles and 13 career triple-doubles ... Creighton improved to 2-1 in five-set matches this year ... Creighton is now 7-1 against teams that made the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
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