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Leah McNary and Lauren Smith
Courtesy: Steven Branscombe

Volleyball Sweeps Bowling Green To Win Hampton Inn Invitational

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio -- The No. 25 Creighton Volleyball program won the Hampton Inn Invitational title with a 3-0 sweep of host Bowling Green on Saturday morning. Creighton won by scores of 25-23, 26-24, 27-25 to improve to 2-0, while Bowling Green dropped to 0-2.

All three sets were tied late before the Bluejays clawed out a two-point victory. The first set was deadlocked at 23-all, the second frame at 24-all, and the third set at 25-all before CU come up clutch. The third set saw CU survive three set points before closing out its first sweep of 2013.

"Bowling Green is a great team and it was a really tough, hard-fought battle," said Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth . "That's a team that is going to win a lot of games this season. We didn't play perfect but I credit Bowling Green. They put pressure on you at all times, hit hard out-of-system and are great blocking team."

Creighton won a tightly-contested opening set that featured 14 ties and had five lead changes. The Bluejays fell behind 18-16, only to have Kate Elman serve up a 6-0 run to put the visitors in good shape. Bowling Green rallied to knot the score at 23-all before CU closed things out with kills by Leah McNary and Jess Bird. McNary led CU with seven kills in the first frame, while Bird added seven digs. Michelle Sicner had 16 assists for the Jays.

Creighton used an enormous second set comeback to take a 2-0 lead into the intermission. The Bluejays started slow and found themselves trailing 14-6 before a Lizzy Stivers serving run trimmed the deficit in half. CU would tie the score at 17-all and retake a lead at 22-21. The Falcons survived CU set point chances at 24-22 and 24-23, before Creighton eventually battled to earn the 26-24 set win. Bird topped the Jays with six kills in the second set, while Browning added four kills and four blocks.

Following the break, Creighton surged to a 7-1 lead and appeared well on its way to victory, but the hosts had other ideas. Bowling Green used a 5-0 spurt to draw within 11-10, and would tie the score at 20-all. The Falcons would later get three kills from Paige Penrod during a 4-0 burst to put BG to the edge of a set victory, but CU answered with two kills from McNary and a double-block by freshmen Lauren Smith and Bird. McNary would then have a kill to make it 26-25 before Bird's kill closed out the contest.

McNary topped Creighton with 11 kills, one more than Bird's 10. Middle blockers Browning and Smith both finished with nine kills, with Browning adding a match-best 10 blocks. Sicner led CU with 38 assists and added eight digs on .364 hitting. As a team, Creighton had 49 kills, four aces, 48 digs and 11 blocks on .273 hitting.

Bowling Green was paced by Penrod's 21 kills on .459 hitting. She also tied Alyssa Maloney for team-best honors with five blocks. BGSU had 44 kills, six aces, 49 digs and nine blocks on .207 hitting overall.

Creighton returns home next weekend to host the Bluejay Invitational. South Florida meets Cal on Friday at 3:30 pm, followed by Creighton's match vs. Northern Colorado at 6 pm.

"It is always so fun to play in our facility, which is one of the best in the country," said Booth. "I hope the fans will come out and continue to add to our home court advantage."

NOTES
: No. 25 Creighton is the first ranked foe to meet Bowling Green at the three-year old Stroh Center. Bowling Green will meet No. 13 BYU later tonight ...Bowling Green was picked to win the Mid-American Conference and returned five starters from last year's team that went 22-11 and fell at Penn State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament ...Jess Bird is Creighton's first player with double-digit kills in each of her first two matches since JoDe Cieloha in 1994 ...Creighton had three players named to the All-Tournament Team; Kelli Browning, Lauren Smith and MVP Michelle Sicner.

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