-- Head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth has announced the Creighton Volleyball schedule for the 2014 season.
The Bluejays will play nine matches against NCAA Tournament qualifiers from a year ago, with eight of those teams winning at least one postseason contest and four teams playing in the Sweet 16 or beyond.
"It's a really aggressive non-conference schedule," said Booth. "We're going to play a lot of the top teams in the country in the non-conference schedule. We'll get to see where we match up leading into the BIG EAST schedule. We finished second last year, but we want to bring home a BIG EAST championship, and that's what's driving us."
Following the program's August 22 Blue-White exhibition, the regular-season begins where the 2013 ended, in Lawrence, Kan. The Bluejays will meet Lipscomb, Utah Valley and Kansas at the Kansas Invitational on Aug. 29-30. Last season Creighton played a pair of NCAA Tournament matches in Lawrence, defeating Arkansas before falling to the host Jayhawks one match shy of the Sweet 16.
An exciting new four-year event, the National Challenge, opens a daunting month on Sept. 5-6. Creighton begins the event with a match against longtime Missouri Valley Conference rival Northern Iowa before taking on perennial powers USC and Kentucky the following day. The four programs have committed to playing in the event the next four years, with the site alternating between Lexington, Cedar Falls, Los Angeles and Omaha.
Creighton returns home to host the Bluejay Invitational on Sept. 12-13. Traditional West Coast power Pepperdine will serve as CU's home opener on Sept. 12 before the Jays host Bowling Green and Wichita State the following day.
Creighton's lone non-conference midweek match of the year will take place on Sept. 17 in Lincoln, Neb., when Nebraska returns to the Bluejay schedule for the first time since 2011 to initiate a two-year home-and-home series that will see the teams meet at CenturyLink Center Omaha next fall.
Creighton closes out non-conference play on Sept. 19-20 with the Creighton Classic that features South Dakota, Colorado and Illinois.
BIG EAST play begins on Tuesday, Sept. 23 when Creighton treks to the nation's capital to meet up with Georgetown. That weekend, CU hosts its first BIG EAST matches of the fall when Butler (Sept. 26) and Xavier (Sept. 28) visit D.J. Sokol Arena.
The Bluejays open October with a weekend trip to DePaul (Oct. 3) and Marquette (Oct. 4), followed by a trip the following weekend to Seton Hall (Oct. 10) and Villanova (Oct. 11).
A rare five-match homestand during league play as CU closes down October and opens November. In that time, CU will host St. John's (Oct. 17), Providence (Oct. 19), Marquette (Oct. 24), DePaul (Oct. 26) and Georgetown (Nov. 1). A longtime member of the BIG EAST in most of its sports, Providence rejoins the league in volleyball for the first time since 2001 after being an affiliate member of the America East Conference in recent seasons.
After its extended homestand, CU hits the road for the next four, visiting Xavier (Nov. 7), Butler (Nov. 8), Providence (Nov. 14) and St. John's (Nov. 15). CU closes the regular-season with home matches against Villanova (Nov. 21) and Seton Hall (Nov. 23).
The league tournament is schedule to take place on Nov. 28-29, though a site has not yet been announced.
Creighton returns all but one player from last year's team that finished 23-9 overall, including a second round appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and were also runner-up during its inaugural year in the BIG EAST Conference.
The team departs for a week-long trip to Nicaragua on Wednesday.
Plans call for the team to be blogging, tweeting and sending photos/video from their trip while they are away, with daily updates to come on the team's website (GoCreighton.com
), Twitter account (@CreightonVB
), and Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/creightonvolleyball