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Leah McNary
Courtesy: Steven Branscombe

Volleyball Wins in Four Sets at DePaul

CHICAGO, Ill. -- The Creighton Volleyball team reached the midway point of BIG EAST Conference play with a 3-1 win at DePaul on Saturday afternoon. Scores of the match in favor of the Bluejays were 25-18, 22-25, 25-23, 25-22.

Creighton is now 15-5 on the season and 6-2 in conference play, while DePaul dropped to 15-6 (1-6 BIG EAST) after a 13-0 start.

Led by Michelle Sicner's career-high 52 assists, Creighton hit .372 and pounded 67 wins in the four-set win. Leah McNary had 16 kills and hit .448 to overshadow Kelli Browning's equally stellar 14 kills, six blocks and two aces on .409 hitting. Also terminating double-digit kills were Jess Bird (13 kills, 13 digs) and Lauren Smith (11 kills, .500%). Kate Elman paced CU's defense with 16 digs.

"We had a goal to get our offense going and I was really pleased with our offense," said CU head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth. "We hit at a high clip today, but have got to clean up some parts of our game consistency-wise. We've got great pieces of the puzzle."

Creighton's offense clicked on all cylinders in a first set, a 25-18 win. McNary (5 kills),  Browning (4) and Smith (4) combined for 13 kills on 16 errorless swings to pace a Bluejay attack that hit .571. Sicner dished 15 assists on CU's 18 kills, while Bird led the defense with four digs. Abbie Fleener led DPU with six kills in seven swings.

Creighton never led in the second set, falling 25-22. The Jays fell behind 5-0 early, only to rally and knot the score at 14-all. But that would be as close as CU would get as the Blue Demons closed out the frame on a Natalie Rizzo ace. Fleener had five more kills in the second set for the hosts.

Creighton won the pivotal third set, 25-23. CU led nearly the entire frame until DePaul went ahead 22-21. CU would go on a set-ending 4-1 run thanks to a DPU service error and kills by Smith and McNary before the clincher when Vesela Zapryanova's attack went long.

Creighton trailed by as large as 12-7 in the fourth set before fighting back to tie the score at 15-all. The Bluejays took the lead for good at 19-18 on a block by Browning and Melanie Jereb, and won five key points when DePaul could have tied it down the stretch as the teams traded 10 straight sideouts. McNary had five kills in the final set while Browning added four kills and four stuffs. Fleener had six kills in the last frame, while Allyson Rooks paced DPU with nine digs of her match-best 22 digs.

Fleener led all players with 20 kills and .514 hitting, while Zapryanova had 17 kills. Colleen Smith, a former high school teammate of Creighton's Jereb, dished 55 assists for the Blue Demons. DePaul owned 59 kills, three aces, 47 digs and 11.5 blocks on .297 hitting. The .297 hitting was the second-highest mark ever by an opponent in a Creighton win, as Evansville hit .310 on Nov. 2, 1996 in a 3-1 CU win.

For the day, Creighton recorded 67 kills, five aces, 52 digs and nine blocks on .372 hitting. The .372 hitting is tied for the third-best performance in a four-set match in program history, and best such mark since 2001.

At the midway point of the league slate, Booth had the following to say. "Record-wise I think we're doing pretty well but you always look at matches you wish you had back. We want to be peaking a  month from now. I don't feel we're playing our best right now, but we're capable of it, have the personnel to do it, and the desire to do it. It was a challenge we gave to the team today and I think you'll see us up our practice level and up our game play in the weeks ahead."

Creighton returns home next weekend when it hosts St. John's in a match that has been moved to 5 pm.

NOTES: Creighton has played DePaul, Marquette, Butler and Xavier twice each already and in the month of November will play new league foes St. John's, Seton Hall, Georgetown and Villanova twice each ...Creighton junior Michelle Sicner now owns 119 service attempts in BIG EAST play without an error ...Kate Elman moved past the 900-career dig mark and now owns 903. It was her 53rd career match, the third-fewest in program history to that mark ...Creighton is now 26-7 in October the past four seasons.
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