Volleyball Tops Drake In Four, Advances to MVC Tourney Semis

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Laurel Sanford celebrates a Bluejay win.
Courtesy: Eric Francis

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- In a rare match without a lead change, the Creighton Volleyball team defeated Drake in four sets on Thursday evening in the quarterfinal round of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Scores of the match in favor of Creighton were 25-11, 21-25, 25-18, 25-18.

With the win, Creighton (19-10) advances to tomorrow evening's 5 pm semifinal against second-seeded Wichita State. Drake (23-11) is eliminated from the MVC Tournament with the loss, and will wait to see its NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday afternoon.

Creighton crushed the Bulldogs in the first set, 25-11, pulling away with a set-ending 17-4 run. Heather Thorson had kills on all five of her swings, and Laurel Sanford led a potent blocking attack with four of the team's six stuffs. Creighton held Drake to -.129 hitting in the frame.

"We came out on fire," said Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth. "Drake struggled from the get-go and we had a great first game."

Drake never trailed in the second set, despite four ties. The final tie came at 12-all, but Drake responded with the next four points in a stretch that included three consecutive Bluejay attack errors. Creighton fought back to get within 23-21, but a serving error after a timeout sealed CU's fate. Drake hit .159 in second set while holding the Jays to .042 efficiency.

"Drake answered in the second set, and we responded in sets three and four," said Booth. "I think we felt some pressure and we tried to loosen them up. Once we did that we can play with anyone."

Creighton took the third set by a 25-18 score, never trailing. The Jays stormed to a 17-10 lead and appeared in great shape, only to see Drake rally within 21-18 and force a Creighton timeout. Creighton got Booth's message, scoring the final four points, including Alicia Runge's 10th kill of the match to end the set.

Julianne Mandolfo served Creighton to an 11-0 lead in the fourth set, and Drake got no closer than six (14-8 and 23-17) the rest of the way.

Creighton had four players with 10 or more kills, led by Runge's 14. Thorson finished with a career-high 11, while Sanford and Almgren each slammed 10 kills. With everything working offensively, Megan Bober set the jays to .224 hitting and added 48 assists and five kills. Creighton's defense was paced by 20 digs from Nayka Benitez, while Mandolfo (15), Allie Oelke (14) and Brooke Boggs (10) also finished in double-figures. Creighton finished with 58 kills, four aces, 71 digs and 11 blocks while hitting .224.

Drake was led by nine kills and 15 digs from Whitney Westrum, but top attacker Angela Bys hit -.029 in 35 swings. Alana Wittenburg led Drake with 19 digs, while Emily Heffernen had a team-best six blocks. Drake finished with 35 kills, three aces, 68 digs and eight blocks while attacking at a .075 clip.

NOTES: Creighton split a pair of five-set matches with Wichita State this season, with the home team prevailing each time ... Creighton has reached the semifinals of the MVC Tournament in five straight years ... Creighton is now 2-0 all-time over Drake in the MVC Tournament, also winning last year in Omaha in the quarterfinals ... The third seed improved to 16-0 all-time at the MVC Tournament in quarterfinal round action ... Creighton is now 5-11 all-time in the MVC Tournament, 5-6 in the quarterfinals ... Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth is now 4-7 in the MVC Tournament and 4-3 in the quarterfinals ... Booth is also 15-3 against Drake in her career.

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