Creighton's volleyball team moved into sole possession of second place in the Missouri Valley and set up what could be its biggest road trip of the season next weekend.
In dispatching Illinois State 25-21, 25-27, 25-17, 25-14 in front of 790 at D.J. Sokol Arena, the Bluejays set up a weekend Valley showdown at Wichita State and Missouri State.
Creighton improved to 10-3 in the Valley and moved a half-game in front of the third-place, 9-3 Shockers and 1½ games ahead of the fourth-place, 8-4 Bears.
Laurel Sanford, who led the Jays with 13 kills, said next weekend is crucial to Creighton's NCAA tournament hopes.
“We're psyched for this weekend to tell you the truth,” Sanford said.
“We know we're listed as not going to the NCAA tournament right now. That gets us fired up.”
Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said that although the trips to Wichita and Springfield are important, her goal is to focus on one match at a time.
“There's no question that these are teams that have higher RPIs. I don't think we're focused on that,” Bernthal Booth said.
“I think we're focused on the fact that we want to finish as high as we can in conference, and these matches will go a long way in accomplishing that.”
Creighton rolled through the first set against the Redbirds, but suddenly found itself struggling in the second.
With Creighton up 18-9, Illinois State went on a 10-2 run and eventually clawed back to tie the set at 23-23.
The Redbirds then won four of the last six points to take the set 27-25, with the last two points coming on a Creighton service error by Megan Bober and an attack error by Alicia Runge.
“I thought the second set was probably the biggest breakdown we've had all season as far as really having it under control and then struggling,” Bernthal Booth said.
Sanford attributed the second set loss to a lack of focus by the Jays.
“I think it was just, everything was falling apart. We weren't working together as a team,” Sanford said.
Whatever it was that the Bluejays were missing in set two, it was quickly remedied at intermission.
Allie Oelke and Runge each had 11 kills, and Bober added eight kills and 37 assists.
Illinois State (15-11, 5-8).....................21 27 17 14
At Creighton (15-8, 10-3)........................25 25 25 25
ISU (kills-aces-blocks): Shannon McGlaughlin 9-0-0, Tabitha Visk 8-0-4, Sarah Fetter 2-1-0, LeighAnn Hranka 10-0-3, Mallory Leggett 13-4-3, Hailey Kelley 2-0-1, Kelsey Holman 0-0-0, Laura Wakefield 0-0-0, Jenny Menendez 0-0-0, Katie Culbertson 1-0-2, Ashleigh Fisher 2-0-0.
CU (kills-aces-blocks): Laurel Sanford 13-0-6, Heather Thorson 8-0-2, Allie Oelke 11-0-1, Megan Bober 8-1-2, Alicia Runge 11-0-3, Karisa Almgren 9-0-2, Nayka Benitez 0-1-0, Brooke Boggs 0-1-0, Nayka Benitez, Lisa Greisch 0-0-0, Savannah Smith 0-0-0, Julianne Mandolfo 0-2-0, Brianne Fliss 0-0-0.
Set assists: ISU: 45 (Fetter 25, Wakefield 11, Culbertson 3, Hranka 3, Fisher 2, Leggett 1); CU: 57 (Bober 37, Fliss 11, Benitez 4, Oelke 2, Mandolfo 2, Sanford 1).