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Michelle Sicner
Courtesy: Steven Branscombe

No. 24 Volleyball Outlasts Denver, Improves to 7-1

DENVER, Colo. -- The No. 24 Creighton Volleyball team improved to 7-1 on the season with a hard-fought five-set win at Denver on late Friday night at the Denver Invitational. Scores of the match in favor of Creighton were 25-22, 25-18, 21-25, 23-25, 15-11.

Creighton won its third straight match to improve to 7-1 on the year, while Denver lost its third consecutive and dropped to 5-4.

"I'm proud of the way we battled back tonight to prevail in the fifth set," said CU head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth. "It would have been easy for our kids to hang their heads after losing the third and fourth sets and getting down in the fifth, but we remained calm and were able to beat a good team on their home court in a high-altitude situation."

Leah McNary had three kills and three blocks in the fifth set to key Creighton's victory, and would end the night with 15 kills and seven blocks. She was one of four women with double-digit kills for the Jays, and was joined by Lauren Smith (a career-high 13 kills), Kelli Browning (10 kills, eight blocks) and Jess Bird (10 kills). Michelle Sicner ran the offense and recorded 49 assists, nine digs and eight kills.

Creighton led nearly the entire first set. With the score even at 10-all, the Bluejays went on a 5-1 run and would not trail again. DU made it interesting late, closing within 23-22, but Smith had a kill before teaming with Melanie Jereb for a stuff on set point. McNary and Bird both had three kills, and Smith had a hand of three of CU's five stuffs that helped limit the Pioneers to .083 hitting.

Creighton won the most lopsided set of the night, 25-18, to take a 2-0 lead into intermission. Smith had six kills in the second set to key that win.

In the third set Denver led 17-14, only to watch CU score the next five points to move ahead. Denver returned the favor by tying the score at 21-all. Creighton then had a service error, and Denver countered with an ace that hit the back line to move up 23-21. The Pioneers came out of a Bluejay timeout with two more points to earn the 25-21 set victory and force a fourth set.

The teams played even early in set number four before Denver built a 14-11 lead midway through the frame and force CU to use a timeout.  Sicner served a crucial 4-0 run to help Creighton tie the score at 22-all late. With the score tied at 23-all, consecutive hitting errors did in the Jays as Denver evened the match.

The fifth set featured five ties before a 3-0 serving run from Ashley Jansen gave CU a 9-7 lead it would never surrender. McNary had three kills and a solo block down the stretch as Creighton capitalized on its second match-point chance to win 15-11. The Bluejays hit .429 in the final frame while also getting their lone ace of the day from Lizzy Stivers.

Denver hit .167 and finished with 55 kills, seven aces, 52 digs and 10 blocks. Colleen King led DU with 16 kills, while Brea Muhle had 10 kills and hit .389. Kate Acker owned a match-best 26 digs for the Pioneers.

Creighton had 61 kills, one ace, 53 digs and 17 blocks on .203 hitting in the victory. CU's eight solo stuffs tied its most in any match since 2007.

Creighton closes out play at the Denver Invitational on Saturday at 1 pm Central with a match against No. 11 UCLA (7-1). UCLA is 2-0 this weekend with a four-set win over Denver on Thursday and a five-set win over Cal State Northridge earlier on Friday evening.

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