DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa native Natalie Hackbarth had a career-best 14 kills and Megan Bober had her ninth triple-double of the fall to lead the Creighton Volleyball team to a 3-2 win at Drake on Saturday night in Des Moines. Scores of the match in favor of Creighton were 25-20, 25-16, 22-25, 20-25, 15-10.
Next up for the Jays is the State Farm MVC Tournament, which begins Thursday in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Creighton (17-13, 12-6 MVC) will be the fourth seed in the tournament and take on fifth-seeded Illinois State (17-13, 9-9 MVC) in quarterfinal round play at 7:30 pm. The winner of that match will take on defending champion and nationally-ranked Northern Iowa on Friday at 7:30 pm in semifinal round action.
Creighton took the floor with its MVC Tournament seed locked in, while Drake needed a Senior Night win and two other league results go its way to have any chance at the sixth seed. But it was Creighton that played with more urgency early on, trailing just once in the first two sets to take a 2-0 lead into intermission.
Drake turned the match around in the third set, but not before falling 15-12. The Bulldogs answered with a 5-0 run as part of a 7-2 surge that saw DU lead 19-16. Creighton fought back to get within 23-22 before a net violation and attack error handed the Bulldogs the third set.
The fourth set saw Drake surge to an 8-3 lead, then hold off Creighton down the stretch. The teams were tied at 16-all and traded eight straight sideouts to remain tied at 20-all. But Drake would reel off the next five points to take serious momentum into the fifth and final frame with a 25-20 decision.
With sixth-seed contenders Bradley and Indiana State already having lost, Drake held its tournament fate in its hands heading to the fifth frame.
Creighton got two early kills from Hackbarth to move ahead 5-2, but Drake answered by taking a 7-6 lead. With the score tied at 7-7, Drake won a long rally to take an 8-7 lead as the teams switched ends.
But as the teams switched sides, Drake committed an elementary blunder that turned the tide of the set, and possibly cost itself a postseason bid in the process. Whitney Westrum, who had previously served a 3-0 run to tie the score at 7-all, went back to the service line once again despite the fact a sideout had been scored in between. Alert Creighton freshman Michelle Sicner alerted head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth that she'd previously served, and as Westrum served with an 8-7 lead, the referees immediately blew the play dead because Westrum had served in a spot that had been handled by Sarah Madden and Halli Meyer throughout the night.
Though the miscue only got the Jays back to even at 8-8, the momentum had turned for good. Creighton scored six of the next seven points, including a pair of Julianne Mandolfo aces, and closed out the match on Bober's 11th kill of the night to take a 15-10 fifth set.
Hackbarth led Creighton with 14 kills and 13 digs for her third double-double of the fall, while Bober had her nation-leading and MVC-record ninth triple-double with 11 kills, 14 digs and 36 assists. Laurel Sanford added 11 kills and a team-best seven blocks for CU, while Julianne Mandolfo had 32 digs to pace five players with 10 or more digs. Creighton finished with 59 kills, six aces, 88 digs and 13.0 blocks while hitting .175.
Drake was paced by 11 kills by Emily Heffernen, while Westrum had 10 kills and 11 digs. Caitlin Johnson, one of six Senior Night honorees, closed out her career with 28 assists and 20 digs. Drake tallied 53 kills, three aces, 91 digs and 10.0 blcoks on the evening.
NOTES: The victory was the 50th regular-season MVC win for seniors Laurel Sanford and Karisa Almgren ... Creighton improved to 5-2 in five-set matches this season and 29-16 all-time under Kirsten Bernthal Booth ... Julianne Mandolfo now has 674 digs this season, a CU record that is two shy of setting an MVC mark for digs by a sophomore ... Megan Bober now owns a triple-double in each of the last six weekends ... Julianne Mandolfo owns 30 or more digs in all seven of CU's five-set matches this fall.