LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The Creighton Volleyball program fell just short of its first Sweet 16 in program history, falling in four sets at No. 23 Kansas before a crowd of 3,052 at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday night.
Kansas (25-7) advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history, while Creighton finishes its season with a 23-9 mark. The Bluejay roster will lose only Savannah Smith to graduation off this year's club, which spent six weeks in the top-25 and finished with the second-most wins in program history.
Scores of the match in favor of the hosts were 25-20, 22-25, 25-22, 25-21.
The first set featured eight ties and two lead changes, including 17-all, before Kansas broke loose. A kill from Tiana Dockery gave the Jayhawks an 18-17 lead before a controversial attack error call against Michelle Sicner changed the momentum. CU then made a second consecutive attack error to fall behind 20-17 and call its first timeout. The teams would trade sideouts in seven of the next eight points as KU won, 25-20, to take the 1-0 lead. Papillion native Chelsea Albers had five kills for KU, while Creighton featured a balanced attack that saw three kills each from Sicner, Jess Bird and Leah McNary.
Creighton evened the match with a 25-22 win in the second stanza. The Bluejays pulled away with a 4-0 run on Ashley Jansen's serve to move ahead 11-7. KU would narrow the gap to one at 13-12, 20-19 and 23-22, but each time Creighton answered. A Bird kill got CU to set point, where Kelli Browning put away a KU overpass to close out the frame. Creighton hit .294 in the second set while generating four blocks.
Creighton fell behind 14-12 in the third set after a 5-0 run on Erin McNorton's serve for KU. The Jays fought valiantly, rallying from a 21-17 deficit to knot the score at 22-all, only to see the host Jayhawks earn the final three points and the 25-22 victory. A kill from Albers closed out the frame, giving her a match-best 12 terminations through three sets.
Albers was unstoppable in the fourth set, as well, delivering three back-row kills in a span of four points to give KU a 17-11 lead and send the Jayhawks on their way to the second weekend, as Creighton got no closer than two points (22-20 and 23-21) the rest of the frame, closing it out on a Bluejay service error and a block from Albers and Tayler Soucie.
With the win, Kansas advances to the Los Angeles Regional next weekend, where it will face either Washington or LSU next Friday evening.
Lauren Smith led Creighton with 12 kills, while McNary had 10 kills. Both Browning and Bird recorded nine kills in the match. Creighton had 49 kills, three aces, 69 digs and 11.5 blocks on .176 hitting.
Kansas was paced by 18 kills and 17 digs from Albers, including six kills in the final set, while Dockery added 14 kills. The Jayhawks recorded 59 kills, four aces, 82 digs and nine blocks on .218 hitting overall.
Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth
“Well first off I want to congratulate Kansas on their first trip to the Sweet 16. I have great respect for Coach (Ray) Bechard and it’s a senior-loaded team and I thought they played like it tonight, I thought some people stepped up and really had a great match and a great game plan against us so congratulations to them on doing that. I thought it was a great match. I thought there were some opportunities and some runs on both sides. I thought we had some opportunities and I thought we made some critical errors at different times that we wish we had back. I thought neither team gave up. We had some opportunities to fold in game four; the crowd was really getting into it and I think KU was tasting it and we battled back and felt like we had an opportunity to come back in game four. Of course we’re disappointed, but I’m proud of the group and hopefully this will drive us to work harder when January comes around.”
On the keys to the match:
“I thought we started aggressively but I thought we made too many errors and we made some errors at critical times, so that was a factor of course. I thought (Chelsea) Albers did a nice job at some points kind of taking over the match. I thought she had some clutch balls and she was impressive tonight.”
On the 2013 season as a whole:
“I’d say we’re disappointed. It was never about we’re gearing up for next year, it was about this year. We’re disappointed but I think that’s part of sports and part of life. How do you respond? We’ll rest, we’ll feel bad, we’ll go through that but this is a resilient group, a high-character group and I know we’ll return when we get started in January and I have no doubt that this will drive us.”
On the differences between tonight and the first match against KU earlier in the season:
“I’d have to look at numbers but I thought they used their outsides more. I think they knew we were probably going to go to one direction because just as KU sometimes releases blockers, we do also. I think they had watched us going one way so they tried to go another. I guess I’d say they used their outsides more than we anticipated.”
On the play of Lauren Smith:
“I think Amanda (Foje) just challenged her. I think Lauren’s a kid that’s a fighter and I think Amanda just said ‘It’s not acceptable, let’s get it going’ and I think Lauren stepped up to that.”
On Creighton’s potential going forward:
“I haven’t spent a lot of time focusing on next year. I know we have everybody back, but I think they need time to decompress and be ready to go. I think the sky is the limit. We have some kids coming in and I think we’ve got a great group and a high-character group. I think it’s a testament to the same way we were last year and a testament to the growth of the program that we’re devastated that we’re not continuing on. That’s what we want to be; we want to be a regular in the NCAA Tournament and we want to eventually be a regular in the Sweet 16. They have to end this season and have some time and rest a little bit and I have no doubt we’ll get after it again in a month.”
Creighton junior S Michelle Sicner
On the 2013 season as a whole:
“I definitely think although we have everybody coming back next year we would have liked to make it farther but I think that gives us a little motivation, especially in the spring, knowing that everybody’s coming back and we’re all comfortable with each other and we can make that chemistry even better. I just think it helps us build a little bit knowing that we can come back next year and prove something again.”
On fighting until the end tonight vs. Kansas:
“That was one of the big things when we were a little bit behind we said, ‘We have nothing to lose. We’re going to go out. We’re not going down just giving up.’ I’m really proud of all of us for coming together; we all felt like we played for each other and put it all out there. It stings losing, but we were really glad we were able to come together and put it all out there and not go down without fighting.”
Creighton junior OH Leah McNary
On fighting until the end:
“I think that’s the first thing we said when we got into the locker room, that we put it all out there. Yeah we’re sad that we lost but just being able to put it all out there when it meant the most was great.”
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