• Year by Year Under Kirsten Bernthal Booth
Two-time National Coach of the Year Kirsten Bernthal Booth has led Creighton to four NCAA Tournaments in the last five years and a spot in the Top 25 three straight seasons. Now, as she enters her 13th campaign at Creighton, Booth looks to sweep conference titles for the third time in four seasons with one of the nation’s emerging programs.
Last fall, Creighton finished 25-9 while winning BIG EAST regular-season and tournament titles. The Bluejays earned a spot in a third straight NCAA Tournament after becoming the school’s first team in any sport to win a BIG EAST Tournament title. Kelli Browning paced CU’s winningest senior class ever by earning Third Team All-America honors at year’s end from the AVCA.
Creighton’s 2013 campaign opened with a win over No. 13 BYU en route to a Hampton Inn Invitational title, and CU led the nation in blocks per set. That club was anchored by all-league picks Leah McNary and Browning, reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years.
Booth owns an impressive past, both on and off the court.
Creighton has gone 235-137 while averaging 1,143 fans per home match in Booth’s tenure, compared to an 93-152 mark and 215 fans per match the nine years before her arrival. All of Booth’s teams have qualified for the conference tournament, with eight of the last nine squads reaching the semifinals.
Booth’s .632 winning percentage and 235 wins are easily the best in Creighton volleyball’s modern history. Booth owns 347 career victories, an average of 23.1 wins per season, when you add in her 112 wins in three years at Kirkwood (Iowa) Community College
In her first 12 seasons, Booth has coached 22 First Team and 11 Second Team all-conference picks, while also recruiting and coaching 12 MVC All-Freshman Team honorees. Booth’s teams have won nine AVCA Team Academic Awards and featured CoSIDA Academic All-Americans Emily Greisch (2006) and Megan Bober (2012).
Booth was named 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year and CaptainU National Coach of the Year after the best season in program history. Creighton finished 29-4 while sweeping the MVC regular-season and tournament titles in a season for the ages. CU went 12-1 at home (9-0 in MVC play) and produced a program-record 17-match win streak that carried into the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Bober was named MVC Player of the Year, while Browning was tabbed as MVC Defensive Player of the Year. Both women were named All-American Honorable Mention by the AVCA. In addition, Creighton landed Melanie Jereb and Kate Elman on the MVC’s All-Freshman Team.
The 2011 season saw the Bluejays claim three First Team All-Valley picks for just the second time in program history, including the program’s first MVC Libero of the Year accolade.
Creighton’s 2010 NCAA Tournament run included an inspiring first-round victory over No. 16 Iowa State, and helped the Bluejays earn votes in the year-ending top-25 poll. The campaign saw the Bluejays rally from a slow start to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference. Creighton reached the MVC Tournament finals for the first time after beating Wichita State in the semifinals, which helped secure a much-deserved at-large bid. Bober was named First Team All-MVC and All-Central Region, going on to earn Honorable Mention All-America accolades.
Add it up, and it quickly becomes evident why Booth was named 2010 National Coach of the Year by Collegiate Volleyball Update.
The at-large berth into the 2010 NCAA Tournament came not long after back-to-back second-place finishes in the Missouri Valley Conference resulted in near-misses to the 2007 and 2008 NCAA Tournaments.
The 2008 Bluejay squad finished in sole possession of second place for the first time in program history after going 15-3 in league play. Playing the most difficult non-conference schedule in program history, Creighton finished 18-9 overall and had the second-best RPI of any team to not receive an NCAA bid.
That club saw Korie Lebeda close her career as Creighton’s all-time assist leader, while Jessica Houts was named MVC Defensive Player of the Year and earned AVCA All-America Honorable Mention accolades. Omaha product Amanda Cvejdlik joined Lebeda and Houts on the All-MVC First Team, while libero Bianca Rivera was a Second Team All-Valley selection.
Creighton’s 2007 team finished 21-10 and tied for second in the MVC with a 14-4 record. The Jays became the first team in history to rally from an 0-2 deficit to win at UNI on September 21, and hosted a record-setting crowd (13,081) at CenturyLink Center Omaha on September 1. Lebeda set a Creighton record for career assists, Rivera a record for single-season digs, and Kelly Goc broke season and career marks for hitting percentage. Goc would also become the program’s first All-America Honorable Mention on the court.
Booth’s 2006 team won a then-record 21 matches, picking up in-season tournament titles at Montana State and Middle Tennessee, and reached the MVC Tournament semifinals. They also took a set from eventual national champion Nebraska and picked up three wins over long-time nemesis Illinois State and a victory at Wichita State.
The 2005 campaign was highlighted by the program’s first win at Northern Iowa, a win over Marquette, and the title at the San Diego State Invitational. The Bluejays finished 16-14.
Booth’s 2004 club won a then-record 18 matches while also picking up tournament titles at events hosted by New Mexico and Missouri. Creighton was also the only club in the MVC to beat the regular-season and tourney champ, Wichita State, in 2004.
In 2003, Booth inherited a team that went 3-23 prior to her arrival and improved that nearly identical squad to a 12-18 mark in her debut season at Creighton. That fall, the Bluejays helped pave the foundation for a promising future by signing five Nebraska products that remains one of the program’s top recruiting classes in history.
Booth has proven to be a popular coach among her players and within the Omaha community, which is a key factor in the team’s record crowds, ranking among the top-50 nationally each of the last nine seasons.
Another reason that Creighton is a program on the rise is D.J. Sokol Arena inside the Wayne and Eileen Ryan Athletic Center. The on-campus facility opened in 2009 to rave reviews and hosted six volleyball matches involving ranked teams in its inaugural year, including Creighton’s four-set win over No. 25 Wichita State. Creighton is 63-21 in its six seasons at the facility, where it owns a 46-7 mark in conference play.
On the court, Booth was an All-State setter in high school at Lincoln (Neb.) East and Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association MVP in college at Truman State.
Off the court, she earned Academic All-American honors and was named the 1997 Missouri NCAA Woman of the Year.
Prior to coming to Creighton, Booth went a combined 112-41 in three seasons at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. All three of her teams won at least 36 matches. Her 2000 team reached the NJCAA finals before falling to St. Clair College. Her 2001 team placed fourth nationally and her 2002 club won 39 matches and had seven players earn academic all-conference honors. Twice, she was named District Coach of the Year.
In addition to her coaching responsibilities, she served as the school’s human resource coordinator, where she was in charge of staff development and wellness for all faculty and staff at Kirkwood.
Booth served as a volunteer coach with the University of Iowa in the fall of 1997, helping to run drills and scout opponents. The following spring, she served as interim head coach while running practice and doing other assorted administrative tasks. She later earned her master’s degree in higher education administration with an emphasis in athletic administration from Iowa in 2000.
As an undergrad, Booth’s teams at Truman State went 101-54 with her running the offense at setter. She was named the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association Freshman of the Year in 1993, and earned All-MIAA accolades her final three seasons as well. She capped off her career in 1996 by earning MIAA Player of the Year honors and setting new school records for assists in a season (1,662) and career (6,077), the latter of which ranked third in NCAA history at the Division II level when she graduated. She remains among Truman’s all-time leaders for digs (1,410), aces (127) and blocks (230) and was inducted into Truman State’s Athletic Hall of Fame in October, 2011.
She was also a member of the Student Senate at Truman State, where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in communications.
Growing up, Booth excelled in both tennis and volleyball at Lincoln East High School, where she is a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. In tennis, she was a three-time All-American and two-time state champion at No. 1 singles.
Booth and her husband, Erik, reside in Omaha. The couple have three daughters: Reese (10), Hayden (8) and Berkeley (4).
The Kirsten Bernthal Booth File
Kirkwood Community College (Head Coach)
Year W L Pct. Highlights
2000 37 12 .755 2nd at NJCAA nationals
2001 36 18 .667 4th at NJCAA nationals
2002 39 11 .780 10-1 at home
Totals 112 41 .732 Two-time District Coach of the Year
Creighton University (Head Coach)
Year W L Pct. Highlights
2003 12 18 .400 Record crowds, 9-win improvement
2004 18 11 .621 Record 18 wins, 2 tournament titles
2005 16 14 .533 Record crowds, first win over UNI
2006 21 10 .677 Record 21 wins, MVC Tourney semi’s
2007 21 10 .677 Tie-2nd in MVC, became CU win leader
2008 18 9 .667 2nd in MVC, first to reach 100+ wins
2009 14 17 .452 Hosted MVC Tourney; Opened Ryan Ctr.
2010 21 12 .636 NCAA Tourney; National Coach of Year
2011 17 14 .548 Earned 150th win at Creighton on 9/30
2012 29 4 .879 NCAA Tourney; MVC RS/Tourney champs
2013 23 9 .719 NCAA Tourney; Beat #13 BYU; 200th win at CU
2014 25 9 .735 NCAA Tourney; BIG EAST RS/Tourney champs
Totals 235 137 .632 All-Time Creighton Wins Leader; 4 NCAA’s