OMAHA, Neb. -- The 25th-ranked Creighton Volleyball team clinched at least a share of its first MVC title in program history on Saturday night with a hard-fought, 3-1 win over Illinois State. Scores in favor of the Jays were 25-21, 22-25, 26-24, 25-17. After the match the team honored the accomplishments of six women as part of Senior Day festivities.
Creighton is now 24-3 on the fall and 15-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference with two matches to play in the regular-season. The victory extended Bluejay school records for wins in a season (24), consecutive wins (12), home wins (12) and consecutive home wins (11), and also secured a quarterfinal round bye and No. 1 seed at the MVC Tournament on Nov. 22-24 in Springfield, Mo.
Illinois State dropped to 15-11 and is 9-7 in MVC action.
Creighton won the first set, 25-21, behind four kills from Kelli Browning and eight digs by Kate Elman. The score was knotted at 18-all before Browning had a go-ahead kill, then served up the next four points to give the Jays a cushion. An ISU attack error would seal the CU win.
The second set was even tighter, with 15 ties and six lead changes before Illinois State prevailed 25-22. The score was tied at 22-all before CU uncharacteristically made three straight attack errors to drop the set. Brooklyn Hlafka had six kills and five digs in the set, while Kaitlyn Early assisted 12 kills for ISU in the set. Browning had seven kills in seven swings in the second frame while also adding three blocks for the hosts.
The third set had 11 ties and six more lead changes, but it was a 4-0 rally by Creighton that turned the tide of the match and ultimately will help the 2012 team etch its name in the record books. Creighton fell behind 24-22 before Megan Bober fed Browning for a kill. ISU would call a timeout, and Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth turned to freshman Ashley Jansen at the service line for the first time all night. The Jays tied the score at 24-all as Browning and Bober stuffed ISU freshman Ashley Rosch. Jansen then served an ace to get the Jays to set point, where Brooke Boggs set fellow senior Bober for the winner. Melanie Jereb led CU with six kills in the third set.
Creighton fell behind 3-0 in the fourth set before a 7-1 run helped the Jays build a lead. The pesky Redbirds later overcame a 12-7 deficit with a 6-1 run and the score would be deadlocked at 13, 14, 15 and 16-all. Freshman Lizzy Stivers then broke open the match, serving a 6-0 run that made it 22-16. Creighton would clinch the match when seniors Bober and Heather Thorson connected for a kill through the heart of the Redbird defense.
Bober had her fifth triple-double of 2012, and 14th of her career, finishing with 38 assists, 19 digs and 12 blocks while adding four blocks and hitting .346. Browning had 17 kills, one shy of her career best, while Jereb had her seventh double-double with 13 kills and 15 digs. Leah McNary also notched double-digit kills, finishing with 11. On a night with an endless supply of long rallies, Elman sparked the defense with 23 digs, while Katie Neisler (14) and Boggs (12) joined Bober and Jereb in double-figures. For the night, Creighton had 59 kills, four aces, 90 digs and nine blocks on .222 hitting.
ISU had 51 kills, five aces and 79 digs to go with seven blocks on .122 hitting. Hlafka had career-highs with 19 kills and nine digs, while Rosch had 10 kills and 13 digs. Jenny Menendez led all players with 30 digs on the evening.
Creighton closes the regular-season next weekend with road trips to Wichita State (Friday, 7 pm) and Missouri State (Saturday, 7 pm).
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