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Kirsten Bernthal Booth
Courtesy: Steven Branscombe

Booth's Dramatic 200th Win Moves Volleyball Into First Place

OMAHA, Neb. -- Head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth's 200th victory at Creighton was one she'll remember for a long time, as her team won a five-set thriller vs. Xavier to move into first place in the BIG EAST Volleyball standings for the first time.

Scores of CU's win were 19-25, 26-24, 25-21, 14-25, 15-13.

The win vaulted Creighton (13-4, 4-1 BIG EAST) past Xavier (12-8, 4-2 BIG EAST) into first place of the league standings, one-half game ahead of idle Marquette (11-5, 3-1 BIG EAST).

Creighton was paced by 14 kills each from Kelli Browning and Leah McNary, with Browning hitting  a match-high .458 in 24 swings. Kate Elman led CU's defense with 20 digs, while Lauren Smith had three of her match-best seven blocks in the fifth frame. Creighton finished with 52 kills, 78 digs and 14 blocks while hitting .135.

Xavier was paced by 21 kills and a career-best 23 digs by freshman Abbey Bessler, who also had a career-high 65 attack attempts. Sarah Brown moved from libero back to outside hitter and tallied 12 kills and 22 digs for XU. Xavier finished with 65 kills, three aces, 86 digs, eight blocks and hit .199, but were done in by 16 errors behind the service line.

Xavier came out the aggressor in the first set, racing to a 25-19 win against the hosts. The Musketeers got five kills and six digs from Bessler while also holding CU to .000 hitting in 43 swings.  Xavier led 16-11 before three straight blocks put them in prime position to coast home to a first set win.

Creighton claimed a pivotal second set to even the match heading to intermission. The frame featured 17 straight sideouts at one point before CU finally evened the score at 14-all on a kill from Browning. CU would get its first lead at 19-18 and seemed in control with a 23-20 cushion, only to watch Xavier save a set point to knot the score at 24-all. Creighton would rally with a kill from Jess Bird and a Browning spike to even the match with a 26-24 victory. Browning had five kills in as many swings in the second set as CU upped its hitting percentage to a stout .314.

The third set was deadlocked at 15 before Ashley Jansen served a 3-0 run that included a kill and block each from Lauren Smith. Smith later teamed with McNary for a stuff of Xavier's Alex Smith on set point and clinch the 25-21 win. Smith had three of CU's five blocks in the inning, while McNary paced CU's offense with four kills in 15 swings.

Xavier dominated the fourth set with an impressive 25-14 victory over CU. The Musketeers hit .359 with 15 kills against just one error in 39 swings, and never let CU win a point on any of its 14 serves. Bessler had five kills and seven digs in the set.

The fifth set featured 10 ties and five lead changes as both teams emptied their tanks with first place on the line. Xavier was staked to an early 2-0 lead, but Creighton would rally and take its first lead at 6-5 when McNary and Lauren Smith stuffed Alex Smith. Lauren Smith and Savannah Smith would then block Abbey Bessler to help CU take an 8-7 edge as the teams alternated sides. A Bessler kill made it 10-9 for XU's final lead of the the night, but Creighton would score the next two points on a kill and solo stuff by Browning to make it 11-10. After a service error, Browning and Michelle Sicner rejected a Bessler attempt and McNary followed with a kill as CU built a cushion at 13-11 and force a Xavier timeout. The teams would trade attack errors and Xavier saved two match points before Sicner's kill on a second contact surprised the Muskeeter defense and clinched the 15-13 win.

Creighton returns to action on Sunday at 1 pm when it hosts Butler (16-4, 3-2 BIG EAST) in the program's annual "Pink Out" match. Fans are encouraged to wear pink as part of the program's annual Breast Cancer Awareness program, and CU will also don pink uniforms. The Bluejays will be looking to avenge its lone league loss on Oct. 4 in four sets in Indianapolis.

NOTES: Michelle Sicner had her seventh straight double-double, finishing with 41 assists and 16 digs. Her streak of two straight triple-doubles ended as she tallied six kills ... Creighton is now 6-0 all-time in five-set matches at D.J. Sokol Arena and 36-18 at all venues in five-set contests under Kirsten Bernthal Booth ...All 14 of Creighton's blocks came in the three sets it won.

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