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Creighton Volleyball is home on Friday for the Blue-White Scrimmage.
Courtesy: Laura Jacobsen

No. 23 Volleyball Hosts Blue-White Scrimmage on Friday

The No. 23 Creighton Volleyball team will take to the court before a crowd for the first time this fall on Friday when it hosts the annual Blue-White Scrimmage. First serve at D.J. Sokol Arena inside the Wayne and Eileen Ryan Athletic Center is slated for 6 pm, and the event is free to attend.

2014 Creighton Volleyball Preseason Notes
- Creighton will enter the 2014 season ranked 23rd in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll. The No. 23 spot marks the program’s highest preseason mark in school history, two spots higher than last year’s No. 25 slotting that marked the previous best.

- Creighton will meet five ranked teams in non-conference play, including No. 5 USC, No. 7 Nebraska, No. 11 Illinois, No. 19 Kentucky and No. 22 Kansas. Creighton and Stanford are the nation’s only two teams to play five different non-conference matches against teams in the preseason Top-25 poll.

- Creighton returns all six starters and 12-of-13 letterwinners from last season’s team that finished 23-9 overall and 12-4 (T-2nd) in the BIG EAST Conference.  The lone departure was reserve middle blocker Savannah Smith, who graduated. All told, CU returns 100 percent of its aces and assists, 99.3 percent of its kills, 99.2 percent of its digs, 99.1 percent of its points, 98.1 percent of its matches started and 98.0 percent of its blocks from the 2013 team.

- Creighton boasts three true freshmen, one redshirt freshman and one transfer who will look to play their way into the Bluejay line-up this fall.
    All three of the true freshmen are from Nebraska, while redshirt freshman Kenzie Crawford hails from Grand Rapids, Mich. The Jays also welcome Elkhorn native Maggie Baumert, who is a junior in eligibility after spending the previous three seasons at the University of Georgia.

- The influx of newcomers gives Creighton 10 players who hail from the state of Nebraska, most for any season since the program’s return in 1994. The previous high had been nine in both the 2004 and 2005 campaigns.
    This season marks the 12th straight year that Creighton will boast at least one Omaha Marian High School graduate on the roster, as both Kate Elman and Ashley Jansen continue the streak.

- Head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth opens her 12th season with a 210-128 career record. She is the winningest coach in the program’s modern history and led CU to the second round of the 2010, 2012 and 2013 NCAA Tournaments.

- Creighton ranked 33rd nationally in average home attendance (1,250) in 2013. It was the eighth straight year the Jays have been in the top-50.

- Creighton once again plays a strong schedule, as it will play nine contests against NCAA Tournament qualifiers from a year ago. That includes non-conference tilts versus Kansas, USC, Kentucky, Wichita State, Nebraska, Illinois and Colorado, in addition to league rival Marquette twice.

- Creighton is 8-3 all-time in season-opening matches under Kirsten Bernthal Booth, including a five-match win streak.

- The University of Nebraska returns to the Creighton schedule for the first time in the regular-season since 2011. The Cornhuskers will return the visit during the 2015 campaign in a match scheduled for CenturyLink Center Omaha.

- Creighton has played in the NCAA Tournament in three of the last four seasons (2010, 2012, 2013), winning at least one match each appearance. The Bluejays are one of 19 teams to win an NCAA Tournament match in each of the last two years, and one of 21 teams nationally to win at least one NCAA Tourney match in three of the last four seasons.

-Creighton’s 52 victories in the previous two seasons are six more than other two-year span in program history, previously done from 2011-12. Creighton’s 69 victories in the previous three seasons are the most in any three-year span in program history, two more than the 2010-12 total of 67. Creighton’s 90 victories in the previous four seasons are nine more than other four-year span in program history, which was done from 2009-12.

- Creighton plays its only exhibition match of the fall when it plays the annual Blue/White match on Friday, Aug. 22. The match begins at 6 pm at D.J. Sokol Arena. Admission is free. Creighton’s regular-season home opener is Sept. 12 vs. Pepperdine.

2014 Outlook
    Creighton Volleyball enters the 2014 season with high expectations after returning 12-of-13 letterwinners from last season’s 23-9 team that spent six weeks in the Top 25 and finished the year in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years.
    Creighton placed second in the regular-season race before also finishing as the runner-up at the league tournament in its debut season as a BIG EAST Conference member.
    With this year’s team returning 100 percent of its service aces, 99.2 percent of its digs and 98.0 percent of its blocks  and 97.7 percent of its kills, not to mention four talented newcomers, this could be the season the team breaks through and reaches the Sweet 16 or beyond.
    Keying Creighton’s play this year will be four seniors who have played a large role in the team’s success the previous three years, both on and off the court.
    Senior middle blocker Kelli Browning is a two-time Honorable Mention All-American who already ranks among the top players at her position in school history. Browning tied for the national lead in blocks as a sophomore, then ranked eighth nationally in blocks per set a year ago.
    Browning has also proven to be a dynamic option on offense, where she’s a .333 hitter and owns more than 700 career kills.
    Two senior outside hitters to watch are Leah McNary and Katie Neisler.
    McNary is a high-flying attacker who has paced the team in kills each of the last two years. She was named First Team All-BIG EAST a year ago, when she ranked ninth in the league in kills per set and 10th in points per set.
    Neisler owns more than 500 career digs, but has shown flashes of her offensive capabilities since coming to CU, such as the 13 kills she produced in a 2012 spring exhibition victory at Nebraska.
    CU’s final senior is Omaha native Michelle Sicner, who has started 78-of-90 matches she’s played in since stepping foot on campus.
    Sicner has spent much of that time as the team’s setter, and last year was named an Honorable-Mention All-American by the AVCA. The AVCA also honored her last October as its National Player of the Week after she posted triple-doubles in wins over DePaul and Marquette in the same weekend.
    Battling Sicner for the setting position will be redshirt freshman Kenzie Crawford and junior Maggie Baumert. Crawford redshirted within the program last season, while Baumert arrived in January after setting during the previous two seasons in Georgia’s 6-2 offense. All three women figure to contend for the job of directing CU’s offense.
    Juniors Kate Elman and Ashley Jansen will pair up with sophomore Amanda Foje to key Creighton’s back-row defense. Elman has served as CU’s libero for every set the past two years, while Jansen owns more than 300 career digs from the DS position. Foje was used sparingly during her debut year on campus but looks for a bigger role in 2014.
    Not to be forgotten, junior Lizzy Stivers can play either front or back row, but has seen most of her time at CU as a serving specialist.
    Creighton owns a pair of six-rotation outside hitters in junior Melanie Jereb and sophomore Jess Bird. Both women are strong defenders who can also terminate at the net.
    Manning the middle alongside Browning figures to be Lauren Smith, Marysa Wilkinson or Brittany Lawrence. Smith emerged from a redshirt season with a strong freshman season, finishing fourth on the CU team in kills and third in hitting percentage. Both Wilkinson and Lawrence are true freshmen.
    Speaking of freshmen, Lincoln native Toni Tupper can play either on the right side or as an outside hitter and adds to the team’s firepower on offense.
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