BOWLING GREEN, Ohio -- Creighton Volleyball's opened its most anticipated season in program history with a milestone win on Friday afternoon at the Hampton Inn Invitational in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Ranked 25th nationally, Creighton overcame a first set loss to upend No. 13 BYU by a 22-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-15 margin. The win over the No. 13-ranked Cougars marks the highest-ranked team the Jays have ever defeated, surpassing a 2010 NCAA Tournament win over No. 16 Iowa State.
Michelle Sicner flirted with a triple-double in her return to setter, finishing with 43 assists, 16 digs and eight kills while hitting .438. She directed an offense that saw four teammates attain nine or more kills, paced by 14 from Jess Bird. Bird's 14 kills are the most in Creighton history in a debut, and her 12 digs made her the first CU player to debut with a kill-dig double-double since 1994.
Besides Bird, Leah McNary had 12 kills, Melanie Jereb had 11 kills and 15 digs, and redshirt freshman Lauren Smith finished with nine kills on .643 hitting in her debut, as well. In addition, Kate Elman had 15 digs and two of CU's seven aces.
"Michelle (Sicner) did a great job, which I knew she would," said CU head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth. "We really challenged her to be more active and it opened things up for her hitters."
Creighton hit .308 against the top team from the West Coast Conference, a team that advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 2012 NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual national runner-up Oregon.
BYU won the first set, 25-22, to take the early 1-0 lead in the match. The Cougars used an early 10-1 run to bolt to a 12-4 lead and would hold off a hard-charging Bluejay squad down the stretch. CU would draw within 24-22 late before a kill from Amy Boswell closed out the frame. BYU hit .343 in the first set, while Creighton hit a solid .268 and owned a 3-1 lead in aces and 17-16 advantage in digs. Bird led CU with five kills in her first career frame.
Creighton evened the match with a 25-20 second set triumph, leading nearly the entire way. The Jays built an 11-7 lead on Kate Elman's serve early on and would lead by as much as 19-13 before closing out the set. Smith had two kills late in the frame to help fend off the Cougars.
Creighton's third set mirrored the second set, as the Jays led most of the way after a 5-2 run to go up 8-6 and take the lead for good. CU pulled away into a 20-13 lead and converted it into a 25-19 triumph. CU's talented freshmen duo of Bird and Smith both had four kills in six swings during the pivotal set win, which also saw Sicner collect eight digs and 10 assists.
"You never know how a freshman will perform, but they came in like upperclassmen and played with confidence and energy," noted Booth. "That's a credit to what they've done growing up playing in tough matches and they really stepped into the college game and both played a great match."
The fourth set saw Creighton build leads of 16-9 and 20-10 to cruise to victory, including a match-clinching kill by Bird. McNary led CU with four kills in the set, while Bird had seven digs. Creighton hit .387 in the final set while holding BYU to .026 efficiency.
For the day, Creighton won all the stat battles, including kills (60-47), hitting percentage (.308 - .171), aces (7-4), digs (71-56) and blocks (10-7). BYU was paced by 11 kills each from Alexa Gray and Tambre Haddock, thought both women hit under .175 for the contest.
"I told the team that if we win the serve-and-pass game, I thought we''d win the match, and our serving tonight was fantastic and we passed really well," said Booth.
Creighton returns to action on Saturday morning at 9 am with a contest against tournament host Bowling Green. The defending Mid-American Conference champions and 2013 MAC favorites battled Marquette on Friday evening.
NOTES: Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth picked up her 300th career victory with the win. She owns 188 wins at Creighton and had 112 wins at Kirkwood (Iowa) Junior College ...Creighton improved to 8-3 under Booth in season-openers and is now 12-8 overall, including a BIG EAST-best five straight wins ...Jess Bird became the 12th true freshman since 2000 to start a season-opener. Seven of the last 11 would be named to the league's all-freshman team at year's end ...The previous high for kills in a debut was 13 by JoDe Cieloha (9/2/94), and Cieloha was also the last previous player with a kill-dig double-double in a debut ...The team's combined 57 wins in 2012 was the most nationally for any season-opening contest, and the combined .877 win percentage in 2012 is second-highest for any 2013 season-opener behind only Texas-Hawai'i ...Creighton improved to 3-48 all-time vs. ranked teams, including 2-5 at neutral sites ...Creighton has won its last eight neutral-site matches.
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