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Melanie Jereb
Courtesy: Steven Branscombe

Volleyball Falls to No. 11 UCLA in Title Match of Denver Invitational

DENVER, Colo. -- The No. 24 Creighton Volleyball team lost the title match of the Denver Invitational in four closely played sets against No. 11 UCLA on Saturday afternoon.

Scores of the UCLA win were 25-23, 22-25, 25-23, 25-19. The Bruins improved to 8-1 with the victory, while Creighton had its nine-match win streak on neutral floors snapped and dropped to 7-2. The match included 25 ties and 12 lead changes amongst the ranked teams.

Despite the setback, Creighton had a pair of players named to the Denver Invitational All-Tournament Team, Leah McNary and Michelle Sicner. McNary led Creighton with 42 kills and averaged 3.50 kills and 1.00 blocks per set at the event, while Sicner averaged 10.42 assists and hit .393 over the weekend. UCLA's Karsta Lowe was named the event's MVP.

"I thought UCLA was a great team," said Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth. "We had our opportunities and unfortunately we weren't able to convert some of the chances in front of us."

Creighton was paced by a season-high 19 kills from McNary, who hit .342 in 38 swings. Melanie Jereb had 12 kills and eight digs, while Kelli Browning finished with 10 kills and a team-best six blocks. Kate Elman and Katie Neisler topped the defense with nine digs, and California native Lizzy Stivers served up a pair of aces. Creighton had 53 kills, three aces, 35 digs and 11 blocks on .259 hitting.

UCLA was paced by 19 kills from Maddy Klineman, who hit .424 for the match. Kelly Reeves finished with 15 kills and 13 digs, while Lowe tallied 13 kills on .409 hitting for the victors. UCLA finished with 63 kills, two aces, 35 digs and 11 blocks on .281 hitting.

McNary had six kills in her seven swings during the first set, and Creighton led 14-10 near the midpoint. UCLA would counter with a 12-5 spurt to go ahead by three points, only to see CU draw within 23-22 late. However, the teams would trade three straight sideouts, including Bruin kills by Lowe and Mariana Aquino, as UCLA won the first frame 25-23. Creighton hit .379 in the set, but UCLA was even better at .455 in its 19 kills.

The second set saw Creighton come from behind for victory. Trailing 9-5, the Jays retook the lead with a 5-0 burst. UCLA would regain a 13-11 briefly, only to see CU counter with an 10-2 run that included a pair of kills by McNary. The Jays closed out the set on a kill from Browning, her fifth in as many swings during the second frame.

The third set was the closest one of the day, featuring 12 ties and six lead changes, before UCLA prevailed with a 25-23 win. With the score tied at 19-all, a kill by Reeves and subsequent UCLA block gave the Bruins the margin it would need. Creighton saved a pair of set points before Klineman's sixth kill of the frame gave UCLA a 2-1 lead in the match.

UCLA buried CU early in the fourth set with a 16-6 lead to start, only to watch the Jays rally within 18-14. CU would come no closer, eventually falling 25-19. Klineman added six more kills in seven swings to lead UCLA, which added four stuffs in the set.

"I think we definitely saw good things from our team but need to go back to gym and get better to prepare for a good Hawai'i team on Friday," added Booth.

Creighton returns to action with three matches next weekend at the Shocker Volleyball Classic in Wichita, Kan., starting with a match at  5 pm against No. 10 Hawai'i on Friday.
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