Two-time National Coach of the Year Kirsten Bernthal Booth will enter her 12th season in 2014 with six returning starters from a team that finished 23-9 and spent six weeks in the Top 25 a year ago.
Creighton’s 2013 campaign opened with a win over No. 13 BYU en route to a Hampton Inn Invitational title, and led to runner-up finishes in the regular-season and tournament of its new league, the BIG EAST.
CU led the nation in blocks per set and were anchored by all-league picks Leah McNary and Kelli Browning, reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years.
Booth owns an impressive past, both on and off the court.
Under her direction, the program has attracted two crowds of more than 12,000 while ranking in the top-50 nationally in attendance each of the past eight years.
Creighton has gone 210-128 while averaging 1,128 fans per home match in Booth’s tenure, compared to an 93-152 mark and 215 fans per match average the nine years before her arrival. All of Booth’s teams have qualified for the conference tournament, with seven of the last eight squads reaching the semifinals.
Booth’s .621 winning percentage and 210 wins are best in Creighton volleyball’s modern history. Added with her 112 wins in three years at Kirkwood (Iowa) Community College, Booth owns 322 career victories, an average of 23 wins per season.
In her first 11 seasons, Booth has coached 20 First Team and 10 Second Team all-conference picks, while also recruiting and coaching 12 MVC All-Freshman Team honorees. Booth’s teams have also won nine AVCA Team Academic Awards and featured CoSIDA Academic All-Americans Emily Greisch (2006) and Megan Bober (2012).
Booth was named 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year and CaptainU National Coach of the Year after the best season in program history. Creighton finished 29-4 while sweeping the MVC regular-season and tournament titles in a season for the ages. CU went 12-1 at home (9-0 in MVC play) and produced a program-record 17-match win streak that carried into the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Bober was named MVC Player of the Year, while Browning was tabbed as MVC Defensive Player of the Year. Both women were named All-American Honorable Mention by the AVCA. In addition, Creighton landed Melanie Jereb and Kate Elman on the MVC’s All-Freshman Team.
The 2011 season saw the Bluejays claim three First Team All-Valley picks for just the second time in program history, including the program’s first MVC Libero of the Year accolade.
Creighton’s 2010 NCAA Tournament run included an inspiring first-round victory over No. 16 Iowa State, and helped the Bluejays earn votes in the year-ending top-25 poll. Add it up, and it quickly becomes evident why Booth was named 2010 National Coach of the Year by Collegiate Volleyball Update.
The at-large berth into the 2010 NCAA Tournament came not long after back-to-back second-place finishes in the Missouri Valley Conference resulted in near-misses to the 2007 and 2008 NCAA Tournaments.
In the 2010 season the Bluejays rallied from a slow start to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference. Creighton reached the MVC Tournament finals for the first time after beating Wichita State in the semifinals, which helped secure a much-deserved at-large bid. Creighton then defeated No. 16 Iowa State in five sets in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, making the Bluejays the lone MVC representative to reach the second round. Bober was named First Team All-MVC and All-Central Region, going on to earn Honorable Mention All-America accolades.
The 2008 Bluejay squad finished in sole possession of second place for the first time in program history after going 15-3 in league play. Playing the most difficult non-conference schedule in program history, Creighton finished 18-9 overall and had the second-best RPI of any team to not receive an NCAA bid.
That club saw Korie Lebeda close her career as Creighton’s all-time assist leader, while Jessica Houts was named MVC Defensive Player of the Year and earned AVCA All-America Honorable Mention accolades. Omaha product Amanda Cvejdlik joined Lebeda and Houts on the All-MVC First Team, while libero Bianca Rivera was a Second Team All-Valley selection.
Creighton’s 2007 team finished 21-10 and tied for second in the MVC with a 14-4 record. The Jays became the first team in history to rally from an 0-2 deficit to win at UNI, and hosted a record-setting crowd (13,081) at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Lebeda set a Creighton record for career assists, Rivera a record for single-season digs, and Kelly Goc a season and career mark for hitting percentage. Goc would also become the program’s first All-America Honorable Mention on the court.
Booth’s 2006 team won a then-record 21 matches, picking up in-season tournament titles at Montana State and Middle Tennessee, and reached the MVC Tournament semifinals. They also took a set from eventual national champion Nebraska and picked up three wins over long-time nemesis Illinois State as well as a victory at Wichita State.
The 2005 campaign was highlighted by the program’s first win at Northern Iowa, a win over Marquette, and the title at the San Diego State Invitational. The Bluejays would finish 16-14.
Booth’s 2004 club won a then-record 18 matches while also picking up tournament titles at events hosted by New Mexico and Missouri. Creighton was also the only club in the MVC to beat the regular-season and tourney champ, Wichita State, in 2004.
In 2003, Booth inherited a team that went 3-23 prior to her arrival and improved that nearly identical squad to a 12-18 mark in her debut season at Creighton. That fall, the Bluejays helped pave the foundation for a promising future by signing five Nebraska products that composed one of the nation’s most-heralded recruiting classes.
Booth has proven to be a popular coach among her players and within the Omaha community, which is a key factor in the team’s record crowds, ranking among the top-50 nationally each of the last eight seasons.
Need another reason that Creighton is a program on the rise? Check out D.J. Sokol Arena inside the Wayne and Eileen Ryan Athletic Center. The on-campus facility opened in 2009 to rave reviews and hosted six volleyball matches involving ranked teams in its inaugural year, including Creighton’s four-set win over No. 25 Wichita State. Creighton is 51-18 in its five seasons at the facility, where it owns a 38-6 mark in conference play.
On the court, Booth was an All-State setter in high school at Lincoln (Neb.) East and Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association MVP in college at Truman State.
Off the court, she earned Academic All-American honors and was named the 1997 Missouri NCAA Woman of the Year.
Prior to coming to Creighton, Booth went a combined 112-41 in three seasons at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. All three of her teams won at least 36 matches. Her 2000 team reached the NJCAA finals before falling to St. Clair College. Her 2001 team placed fourth nationally and her 2002 club won 39 matches and had seven players earn academic all-conference honors. Twice, she was named District Coach of the Year.
In addition to her coaching responsibilities, she served as the school’s human resource coordinator, where she was in charge of staff development and wellness for all faculty and staff at Kirkwood.
Booth served as a volunteer coach with the University of Iowa in the fall of 1997, helping to run drills and scout opponents. The following spring, she served as interim head coach while running practice and doing other assorted administrative tasks. She later earned her master’s degree in higher education administration with an emphasis in athletic administration from Iowa in 2000.
As an undergrad, Booth’s teams at Truman State went 101-54 with her running the offense at setter. She was named the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association Freshman of the Year in 1993, and earned All-MIAA accolades her final three seasons as well. She capped off her career in 1996 by earning MIAA Player of the Year honors and setting new school records for assists in a season (1,662) and career (6,077), the latter of which ranked third in NCAA history at the Division II level when she graduated. She remains among Truman’s all-time leaders for digs (1,410), aces (127) and blocks (230) and was inducted into Truman State’s Athletic Hall of Fame in October, 2011.
She was also a member of the Student Senate at Truman State, where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in communications.
Growing up, Booth excelled in both tennis and volleyball at Lincoln East High School, where she is a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. In tennis, she was a three-time All-American and two-time state champion at No. 1 singles.
Booth and her husband, Erik, reside in Omaha. The couple has three daughters: Reese (9), Hayden (7) and Berkeley (3).
The Kirsten Bernthal Booth File Creighton University (Head Coach)