Volleyball Takes Five-Set Win Over Missouri State

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Megan Bober had a career-high 58 assists and tied another best with nine kills.
Courtesy: Eric Francis

OMAHA, Neb. -- Karisa Almgren had four of her career-high 13 kills in the fifth set to help lead Creighton to a hard-fought 3-2 win over Missouri State on Friday night. Scores of the match in favor of CU were 25-14, 23-25, 25-23, 16-25, 15-10.

Winners of eight of its last nine matches, Creighton is now 11-6 overall and second in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 6-1 league mark. Missouri State fell to 13-4 on the year and into a three-way tie for third place with a 4-2 league ledger.

The first fifth set Creighton has ever played at D.J. Sokol Arena proved to be victorious for the hosts, as the Jays won the first point on an Almgren kill and would not trail. Creighton went ahead 4-1 on a kill from Laurel Sanford. After the Bears clawed within one point, Creighton took an 8-5 lead on a Runge kill as the teams changed ends. Consecutive kills by Almgren gave the Jays a 10-7 lead and prompted an MSU timeout. CU then won a long rally when Julianne Mandolfo's free ball dropped just inside the back line, and Oelke cut a shot to the line to make it 12-7 and force a second MSU timeout.

Almgren emerged from the break with her final kill, and Nayka Benitez completed her incredible serving run with an ace to put the Jays at match point, ahead 14-7. MSU fended off three match points before Oelke ended it with her 12th kill of the evening, giving Creighton an emotional 15-10 fifth set triumph.

With the way the Jays dominated the first set and controlled most of the second set, the fact that it reached five sets may have come as a surprise to some. But veteran volleyball fans have long known the matches between these perennial contenders are rarely one-sided.

Creighton never trailed in the first set, delivering a virtuoso all-around performance to post 25-14 victory over the Bears. The Jays broke free from a 12-10 lead with five points on Oelke's serve, including three straight blocks from Laurel Sanford. Alicia Runge led Creighton with five kills, and the Jays hit .333 with 16 kills, five blocks and 25 digs in the set. CU also had five blocks Sanford also had three kills, four blocks and four digs in a multi-faceted showing. MSU was keyed by three kills from Kelley Michnowicz, but the preseason all-Valley pick had just four swings.

Creighton led most of the second set, and appeared poised to go ahead 2-0 after taking a 19-15 lead. However, Shelby Strang served MSU to its first lead of the night, going ahead 23-20 before eventually winning 25-23. Christine McCartney had six kills on 15 swings in the second set for the Bears, who hit .350 as a team. Creighton was paced by five kills from Runge and 10 more digs by Mandolfo in the second set.

Creighton won the third set, 25-23. With the score knotted at 22, Creighton would score three of the next four points, including two kills from Almgren and the set-clincher from Sanford. Four Jays had three kills, while Mandolfo added seven more digs. MSU was paced by five kills on nine swings from Michnowicz as MSU hit .186 in the set.

Missouri State dominated the fourth set, behind the right arm of 2008 MVC Tournament MVP Cara Hackmann. Hackmann had seven kills on .467 hitting in the fourth set. The Bears pounced to a 9-3 lead and were never threatened. Hackmann teamed with Calli Norman for a block on set point. MSU had 18 kills on 40 errorless swings, hitting .450. Libero Abby Padlock held her own on the defensive side, delivering 11 of her team-high 26 digs in the fourth frame. Sanford had six kills on 12 swings for CU in the fourth set.

Four players had 12 or more kills for Creighton, led by a career-highs from Sanford (18) and Almgren (13). Runge had 15 kills, while Oelke had a double-double with 12 kills and 19 digs. Bober tied her career-best with nine kills while dishing a career-high 58 assists. Freshman libero Mandolfo paced Creighton's defense with a career-best 33 digs to go with eight assists. Her unlikely kill late in the fifth set was the first of her college career. Creighton once again served well, with six aces against just five miscues. For the night, Creighton had 75 kills, six aces, 94 digs, 11 blocks and hit .256.

MSU was led by 17 kills on .536 hitting from Michnowicz. Norman had 12 kills, while Hackmann added to her MSU-record with her 87th career double-figure dig total (11 kills, 12 digs). Carly Thomas had 40 of MSU's 63 assists, sharing time with Melissa Gmur (19 assists), while Padlock paced the defense with 26 digs. Missouri State finished with 65 kills, one ace, 84 digs and 1 blocks while hitting .236.

Creighton returns to action on Saturday night with a 7:30 pm home match vs. Wichita State (11-4, 4-2 MVC). A Getting Blue Barbecue will be held prior to the match from 4:30 pm - 7:00 pm on the lawn to the south of D.J. Sokol Arena in conjunction with the soccer doubleheader at adjacent Morrison Stadium (Creighton women vs. Evansville at 3:30 pm, followed by the Creighton men vs. Indiana at 6 pm).

NOTES: Creighton remained one game behind Northern Iowa (16-2, 7-0 MVC) in the standings after the Panthers swept travel partner Bradley ...The win was just Creighton's fourth in 17 all-time Omaha meetings against Missouri State ... Allie Oelke's 12 kills make her two away from becoming the second player (Melissa Walsh) in Bluejay history with at least 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs ... Creighton has beaten Missouri State and Wichita State on back-to-back nights just once in history, with that coming in 1997 ... Creighton improved to 22-13 in five-set matches under Kirsten Bernthal Booth, including a 2-2 mark all-time vs. Missouri State and a 1-2 mark this season ... Missouri State has now lost both five-set matches in D.J. Sokol Arena history, also falling 3-2 to Wichita State in the 2009 MVC Tournament semifinals.

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