Volleyball Wins Thriller at Illinois State

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Julianne Mandolfo had a career-high 36 digs.
Courtesy: Scott Bruhn

NORMAL, Ill. -- Megan Bober had her nation-leading sixth triple-double to help spark the Creighton Volleyball team to a 3-2 win at Illinois State on Saturday night. Creighton's fourth straight win keeps the Jays alone in second-place with three weeks left in the regular-season.

Scores of the match in favor of Creighton were 25-21, 23-25, 25-16, 20-25, 15-8.

Creighton improves to 15-10 on the season and is 10-3 in MVC play, while Illinois State fell to 15-10 overall and 7-6 in Valley action.

"That was a great match tonight," said Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth. "I thought we played well, and I thought they played well. It could have gone either way. That's what it's all about."

Creighton won the first set with a hard-fought 25-21 triumph. With the score tied at 19-all, CU scored four of the next five points to build a 23-20 lead, then won the set on consecutive attack errors from ISU. Laurel Sanford and Bober each had four kills in the set to lead CU, which hit .286.

The Jays went on a blocking spree to build an 18-12 lead during the second set, but the hosts recovered to even the match with a 13-5 run to steal the second set, 25-23.

Creighton answered the bell after intermission with another strong start, streaking to a 9-3 lead to force a Redbird timeout. The Jays kept the pressure on to slingshot to an 18-7 lead before eventually winning, 25-16.

Creighton dropped the fourth set 25-20 before claiming the match with a  15-8 fifth-set win. The fifth set saw Creighton fall behind 4-3 early before four straight points on Michelle Sicner's serve put them ahead, 7-4. The Jays led 8-5 at the changeover and would go up 10-6 a short time later. ISU rallied with the next two points and draw within 10-8 and cause a CU timeout. The Jays handled the Redbirds from there, scoring the next five points on Bober's serve to clinch the five-set win. Sanford had a block and two kills in the 5-0 run that closed the night.

Bober tied her career-high with 19 kills and added 33 assists and 12 digs for her sixth triple-double of the season. Not only does that figure lead the nation in 2011, but it's one shy of the MVC single-season record set by Northern Iowa's Bre Payton.

In addition to Bober, Creighton got 15 kills and five blocks from Sanford, while Leah McNary had 11 kills and Karisa Almgren 10 more kills on .360 hitting. Julianne Mandolfo had a career-high 36 digs, third-most in CU history, while Natalie Hackbarth and Katie Neisler each had 15 digs. Creighton had 70 kills, four aces, 100 digs and 10 blocks.

Illinois State was paced by 13 kills from Shannon McGlaughlin, while LeighAnn Hranka and Emily Schneider both had 12 kills. Setter Kristin Stauter approached a triple-double with 44 assists, 19 digs and eight kills. The Redbirds had 64 kills, four aces, 93 digs and 10.0 blocks while hitting .175.

Creighton returns to action next weekend with its final two home matches of the year. The Bluejays will host Wichita State on Friday at 7 pm before hosting Missouri State on Saturday's Senior Day at 6 pm.

"I feel like we're playing our best ball right now," said Booth. "Wichita State hammered us at their place. I feel like we're playing better, and I'm just excited. It should be a great weekend and a great opportunity to celebrate Karisa and Laurel's last weekend at home. Hopefully we'll have some big crowds with some good energy and play our best."

NOTES: Creighton has never swept Illinois State in 39 all-time meetings  ... Julianne Mandolfo surpassed 500 digs this fall during the match, the seventh such season in school history and her second in as many years ... Julianne Mandolfo reached 20 or more digs for the single-season school-record 16th time this fall, and 27th time in her career to tie the school's career mark. It was also her school-record sixth match of 30 or more digs ... Katie Neisler's 15 digs were three shy of her career-high and Natalie Hackbarth's 15 digs were one away from her best.

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