Volleyball Tops No. 16 Iowa State in NCAA Tournament Debut

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Karisa Almgren
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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- The first NCAA Tournament volleyball match in Creighton history was one for the ages, as the Bluejays used career-nights from Karisa Almgren and Heather Thorson to post a 3-2 victory over No. 16 Iowa State on Friday. Scores of the match, played at the University of Minnesota's Sports Pavilion, favored Creighton 27-25, 16-25, 25-23, 19-25, 15-11.

Creighton is now 21-11 on the year, matching a modern record for wins in a season. Iowa State, which had reached three consecutive Sweet 16's, had its season end with a 20-9 mark.

"I told the team I've never been as proud of the team, just the way this team battled against just an awesome Iowa State team," said Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth. "I challenged our team to out-work Iowa State tonight and I thought they did a great job.

"We told the team to play loose and enjoy the experience," Booth continued. "After seeing the tape I believed we could be competitive against Iowa State and and we could pull off the upset. I really thought we played well.

"I anticipated that we'd play well. I also know that when we lost those two games, like I told the team, we got beat pretty handily in the games we lost, but there was never a doubt that I thought we'd come back and play hard. We've done that consistently all year. We don't roll over. I knew they'd play hard, even after getting shellacked in a couple games."

Creighton scored three quick points to start the match while cruising to a 9-4 lead, showing no signs of NCAA Tournament jitters. The Cyclones would fight back to tie the score at 13 for the first time. Iowa State appeared in control of the frame with a 24-21 lead, but Creighton would get a kill from Oelke, and then Megan Bober and Laurel Sanford would block Cyclone All-American Victoria Henson. After an ISU timeout, Alicia Runge would put away consecutive kills, giving the Jays a set point chance up 25-24. Henson answered with a kill to knot the score at 25, before a Bober kill gave CU a second set point opportunity. This time they took advantage, as Bober and Thorson blocked Henson to give CU the set.

Runge led Creighton with six kills in the first set, while Brooke Boggs led a strong defensive showing with seven of her team's 21 digs. CU also outblocked ISU, 5-1. Henson had seven kills for ISU in the first set.

Iowa State won the second set, taking a 25-16 decision. With the Cyclones leading 12-9, Henson had a kill and Kelsey Petersen and Debbie Stadick teamed to blocked Runge, forcing a Bluejay timeout. ISU continued its flurry, going ahead 20-12, and winning the set 25-16 on a kill from Jamie Straube.

Creighton went ahead 2-1 in the match with a 25-23 decision. The Jays used a 5-0 spurt to go ahead 6-3 and would not trail again. Creighton steadily built its lead to 16-10. Iowa State got within one point on two occasions, but CU got a kill and a block assist from Thorson during a 3-0 run to get to 24-20. ISU got kills from Carly Jenson and Jamie Straube to get within two, then blocked Runge, to save three set points, but could not finish the job. Jenson's swing would go long, giving Creighton the set.

Iowa State was running away with the fourth set, up 17-8, before Creighton mounted a comeback. A 9-3 Bluejay run forced a pair of Cyclone timeouts as the Jays got within 20-17. ISU would pull away after that though, winning 25-19.

The fifth set featured five ties and five lead changes before Creighton pulled away midway through. Trailing 6-5, Creighton scored three straight points on a kill from Bober and consecutive attack errors by Henson. Creighton would build its lead to 12-8 on back-to-back Runge kills, then got to match point on an Almgren kill off the block. Sanford, a Minnesota native, ended the upset with a tip kill over the Cyclone block.

Creighton was paced by 17 kills from Runge, while Almgren (14 kills) and Thorson (12 kills) both had career nights offensively. Nayka Benitez had 34 digs, while Bober and Sanford each had seven blocks for the Jays. Creighton finished with 65 kills,f ive aces, 89 digs and 11 blocks while hitting .237.

Iowa State was led by 26 kills by All-American Henson, while Jenson (17) and Straube (12) also had big nights. Three 'Clones had 20 or more digs, led by 35 from All-American Ashley Mass. The Cyclones had 77 kills, six aces, 116 digs and five blocks while hitting .245.

Creighton returns to action on Saturday at 6 pm against Minnesota. The host Gophers swept North Dakota State in the second match of the session. The game can be heard on KOIL (1180 AM) and there will be free live stats and free live video available on GoCreighton.com.

NOTES: Creighton improved to 2-42 all-time vs. ranked teams, having also beaten No. 25 Wichita State last season. The No. 16-ranked Cyclones were the highest-ranked foe Creighton had ever beaten ... Creighton improved to 3-3 in five-set matches this season, while Iowa State dropped to 0-2 ... Creighton's 2,296 digs this season are a school-record ... This was Creighton's first-ever NCAA Tournament match ... Creighton improved to 20-2 when winning the first set this season ... Alicia Runge had 17 kills to give her 461 this season, third-most in school history ... Allie Oelke now owns 1,370 career digs, just 22 from Creighton's career record ... Nayka Benitez had her school-record seventh straight match with 20 or more digs, posting a season-high 34 digs.

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