Volleyball Faces No. 12 Minnesota With Sweet Sixteen Bid On The Line

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Creighton Bluejays (21-11)

No. 12 Minnesota Golden Gophers (25-8)
Dec. 4, 2010 – 6:00 PM
Minneapolis, Minn. (Sports Pavilion)

NCAA Tournament Second Round



-Saturday’s match can be watched free on-line at www.gocreighton.com or www.ncaa.com/wvb. The match will also be broadcast on radio on KOIL (1180 AM), with Chris Tubbs and Rob Anderson on the call. A link to that audio, as well as Live Stats is also available on www.gocreighton.com.


-With last night's 3-2 win over No. 16 Iowa State, Creighton (21-11) advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. The winner of Saturday’s Creighton/Minnesota match will advance to Seattle, Wash., to play next Friday in the Seattle Regional against the winner of tomorrow’s California/North Carolina meeting in Berkeley, Calif. The only other school in MVC history to reach the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament is Northern Iowa, which did so in 1999, 2001 (including a 2nd round win over Minnesota) and 2002.


-Creighton has not played Minnesota since being swept (25-14, 25-20, 25-16) by the Gophers in Omaha on Aug. 29, 2008. The Gophers also swept the Bluejays in the Sports Pavilion in 2007. Kirsten Bernthal Booth is 0-2 against Minnesota and coach Mike Hebert.


-Though Creighton and Minnesota have never met in the NCAA Tournament, the Bluejay bench isn’t without some postseason history with the Gophers. Volunteer assistant coach Amanda (Gates) Sjuts played on Nebraska’s 2006 team, which unleashed a historic 3-2 comeback win after trailing 0-2 in the Gainesville Regional final en route to winning a national title.


-The Missouri Valley Conference 3-4 against the Big Ten Conference this season, including a 1-0 mark vs. Minnesota.


-A win on Saturday would give Creighton 22 wins for the first time since the program’s reinstatement in 1994. Both the 2006 and 2007 Bluejay teams finished the season 21-10, while this year’s club is 21-11.


-One key to Creighton’s victory over Iowa State was its 27-25 first set win and its 25-23 victory in the third set. For the fall, Creighton is 15-13 in sets decided by exactly two points. When Creighton overcame a 24-21 first set deficit on Friday, it marked the fifth set won by Creighton this year in which it has stared down an opponent’s set point.


-Creighton’s win on Friday over No. 16 was just its second ever over a ranked team. The Bluejays defeated No. 25 Wichita State on Oct. 2, 2009, in five sets in Omaha. Saturday’s opponent, Minnesota, is ranked 12th. Creighton is 0-22 in true road matches against ranked teams all-time, and 0-2 all-time against teams ranked exactly 12th.


-Only 10 schools nationally qualified teams in the NCAA Tournament in men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball this fall (Creighton, California, Duke, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio State, Penn, Penn State and UCLA). Of that grouping, only Creighton and North Carolina won at least two sets (volleyball) or scored at least two goals (soccer) in each of its first postseason competition this year.


-The team to win the first set has won each of Creighton’s last 17 matches, including yesterday after the Bluejays overcame a 24-21 deficit to win, 27-25. Creighton is 1-9 this year when losing the first set, while Minnesota is 1-3 when dropping the first set.


-Creighton is one of eight schools that rank in the top-51 nationally in both digs per set and blocks per set.  The other seven teams that can claim this are Dayton, Delaware, Montana, Wichita State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and SMU.


-Eight teams made their NCAA Tournament debuts this year. Only Creighton, Auburn and Virginia Tech won. The first-timers that lost included Austin Peay, Cal State Fullerton, High Point, Sacred Heart and South Carolina State.


-Creighton and Minnesota played three similar teams in 2010. Both teams swept Marquette. Creighton went 0-3 against Northern Iowa, whereas Minnesota was 0-1 against the Panthers. Additionally, Minnesota was 2-0 vs. Iowa, while Creighton fell in five sets to the Hawkeyes on a neutral floor in St. Louis.


-Saturday will be Creighton’s 33rd match of the 2010 season, extending a season mark set yesterday vs. Iowa State. The previous high had been 31, done also in 2006, 2007 and 2009. Creighton’s 121 sets played this season is also a school-record.


-Creighton expended a ton of energy to earn a hard-fought, five-set victory on Friday. On Saturday, the Jays will face a match that many would argue be even more difficult. It sounds like a tall task, until you realize that Creighton won five-set matches on back-to-back nights against league rivals Wichita State and Missouri State on Oct. 8-9 earlier this fall.


-Ranked as the nation’s No. 6 conference, the Missouri Valley had four teams earn NCAA Tournament bids this fall. Creighton was the only one of that quartet to advance, but it did mark the 12th time in the last 13 years that the MVC had a representative in the round of 32. Auburn swept Missouri State on Thursday in the first match of the 2010 tournament. On Friday, Wichita State fell 3-0 at Oklahoma, while national No. 5 seed UNI was defeated in five sets by Missouri.

Creighton also owned the last team standing status in the NCAA Tournament this fall in men’s soccer and women’s soccer.


-Creighton had 89 digs last night, giving it 2,296 digs on the season. That total is a school record, 43 more than the previous mark set by the 2006 team, and ranks 10th-most in MVC single-season history. Teammates Julianne Mandolfo and Nayka Benitez, who have both seen extensive time as Creighton’s libero this fall, have joined 1985 Bradley teammates Kathy Bickler (530) and Stacey Besjak (606) as the only duo in league history to both own over 500 digs in the same campaign.


-Friday’s win improved Creighton to 18-7 in matches started by Eagan native Laurel Sanford. The Jays went 1-4 early in the year with Sanford sidelined by an ankle injury. She also voluntarily surrendered her starting spot on Senior Night so that teammate Lauren Bloemke could start the match at the service line.


-Heather Thorson’s 12 kills last night were a career-high, one more than her previous best of 11 done last Friday in an MVC Tournament win over Drake.


-Heather Thorson and Karisa Almgren don’t draw many of the headlines for Creighton, but the play of the tandem has been key down the stretch for Creighton. When the duo combine for 15 or more kills this season, Creighton is 8-2. Both women had career-highs in kills on Friday, with Thorson getting 12 and Almgren 14 kills.


-Nayka Benitez had a season-best 34 digs on Friday, giving her 1,034 digs in her career to rank ninth in school history. Making her feat all the more impressive is the fact that she is in just her second year with the program. Benitez has had 20 or more digs in each of Creighton’s last seven matches, with CU going 6-1 in that time. The seven straight matches with 20+ digs is a school record.


-The 34 digs by Nayka Benitez was the 11th time this fall she’s reached 20 or more digs in a match, tying her for the team lead with Julianne Mandolfo. She has 95 digs in her last three matches, an average of 31.67 (7.31 dps.).


-After having 10 or more kills in just four of her first 48 career matches, junior RS Karisa Almgren has reached double-figures in kills in the last four contests. Her 14 kills last night vs. Iowa State were a career best, one more than her 13 vs. Missouri State in an Oct. 8 five-set win. Creighton is 8-2 when Almgren has nine or more kills this fall.


-Named first-team all-MVC, sophomore S Megan Bober proved her worth with a solid all-around showing again last night. She had 46 assists, 11 digs, six kills and seven blocks. The seven blocks give her 110 on the season, two behind Laurel Sanford for the team lead.

Last season Bober became the first player in Bluejay history to record 100 blocks and 100 assists in the same season, something she has duplicated this fall. She ranks second nationally among setters in blocks per set, trailing only Cal All-American Carli Lloyd.


-With her match-high 17 kills vs. Iowa State yesterday, Creighton’s Alicia Runge upped her 2010 total to 461 on the season. That ranks third-most in school history, and is most by a senior in school history. Leah Ratzlaff had a school-record 516 as a sophomore in 2003, then put down 479 more in 2004 as a junior. Runge’s 1,259 attack attempts this year ranks second most in Bluejay history, trailing the 1,398 by Ratzlaff in 2003.


-Megan Bober had 46 assists on Friday, giving her 1,241 on the year. That ranks fifth-most in school history, but all five seasons (three by Korie Lebeda; two by Brittany Coleman) have come since Kirsten Bernthal Booth took over in 2003.


-Two Creighton starters hail from the metro Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Senior OH Allie Oelke is from Chanhassen, while junior MB Laurel Sanford is from Eagan. Jessica Houts, a Bloomington, Minn., native, graduated last season after setting most of Creighton’s blocking records during an All-American career.


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