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Ashley Jansen had a season-high 15 digs.
Courtesy: Steven Branscombe

Volleyball Earns First BIG EAST Win at Xavier

CINCINNATI, Ohio -- The No. 22 Creighton Volleyball team picked up its first BIG EAST win in program history with a four-set victory at Xavier on Saturday afternoon. Scores of the match in favor of Creighton was 25-23, 20-25, 25-18, 25-22.

Creighton improved to 10-4 (1-1 BIG EAST) with the win, while Xavier dropped to 9-7 (2-1 BIG EAST) in the first meeting between the schools.

With CU owning a narrow 13-12 first set lead, Ashley Jansen served up five straight points to build a cushion. The Musketeers would respond with the next four points to begin an 8-2 run that knotted the score at 20-all. Xavier earned its first lead since 1-0 when it went ahead 22-21, but an XU service error, and Lauren Smith kill helped CU to reclaim the lead. The Bluejays would take the set on kills by Michelle Sicner and Smith to clinch it. Smith led CU with six kills in the first set, while Sicner dished 15 assists and helped CU to hit .341.

Creighton fell behind 12-6 early in the second set and never recovered. A late 4-1 surge after falling behind 22-15 proved too little, too late, in an eventual 25-20 Xavier win. CU hit .239 in the set, but it was no match for a Xavier team that hit .356. Abbey Bessler had nine of her match-high 20 kills in the frame for Xavier.

At the break, Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said her team talked about "not worrying about their own play as individuals, but building our teammates up, and I think that resonated with each other."

Creighton bolted to leads of 6-1 and 12-5 in the third set. Armed with a comfortable 20-13 lead, Creighton surrendered three straight points before calling timeout, but was never seriously threatened before taking a 25-18 victory. Smith had a hand in four of CU's five blocks during the set, which helped limit Xavier's powerful offense to .161 hitting.

The final set had 12 ties, but the last one came at 17-all before CU got loose. A short time later Jansen served up a 5-0 run that pushed Creighton to the brink and made it 24-18. The Musketeers survived four match points before Smith's career-best 15th kill ended the match at 25-22. Smith had six kills and two blocks in the fourth set for CU.

"We passed great all weekend, particularly tonight," noted Booth. "We were in system a bunch and served well. I still think we've got to get better defensively but i thought we were better tonight."

Smith's 15 kills were a career-high, one more than her previous best on Sept. 22 at Wichita State. The redshirt freshman added eight blocks and hit .387 in the win. Leah McNary had 14 kills, while both Melanie Jereb and Kelli Browning had nine kills. Sicner flirted with a triple-double before finishing with 48 assists, 18 digs and eight kills on .412 hitting. CU's defense was paced by Kate Elman, who tied her season-high with 20 digs. Jansen added 15 digs after entering the match with nine all year through CU's first 13 matches. Creighton finished with 62 kills, two aces, 75 digs and 11 blocks while hitting .261.

Bessler had a match-best 20 kills to pace the Musketeers, adding 15 digs. Alex Smith had 11 kills while her sister, setter Aubree Smith, had 46 assists, nine digs and nine kills. Sarah Brown led XU with 20 digs while Alex Blair led the Muskies with eight blocks. Xavier finished with 62 kills, one ace, 75 digs and nine blocks on .256 hitting.

Creighton returns home for the first time in over a month next Friday when it hosts DePaul in a 7 pm start.

"It's such a phenomenal place to play in front of such great fans, I think our players will be energeized to be back on our home court  again," said Booth.

NOTES: The victory was Creighton's first since Oct. 6, 2001 when the opponent hit .250 or better, snapping a streak of 73 straight losses in that scenario ...Creighton avoided its first 0-2 start in league play since 2005 ..Michelle Sicner had her seventh double-double of the year, and fourth straight ...Sicner's 18 digs were a season-high for the junior ...Savannah Smith had two kills, matching her season total entering the day ...Kate Elman's nine assists were a career-high.

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