Volleyball coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth's analogy of Creighton's season at the halfway point of Missouri Valley Conference competition: “It's like we've won two games but haven't won the match.
“If we don't finish the season off well, the first half doesn't mean much,” she said.
The Bluejays are 17-3, including 8-1 in the Valley, with nine games left in the regular season. They're tied for first place with Northern Iowa thanks to the best 20-match start in program history.
A 7 p.m. match at Drake (3-17, 2-7) on Saturday kicks off the second half of the Valley season. Middle blocker Cassie Effken, a 6-foot-2 freshman from Lincoln Pius X, is one of the Bulldogs' leaders with 2.07 kills and 1.12 blocks per set. Freshmen Shelby Daum (Battle Creek) and Scarlett Howerter (Pius) also are on the roster.
Booth gave her team a B-plus after its first trip through the league.
“I think we are doing a lot of good things, but we have areas we can get better,” she said.
Blocking is the team's strength. CU ranks seventh nationally in blocks per set (3.11) and sophomore Kelli Browning is second with a 1.69 average.
Booth also likes the parity on offense and how the team's serving, passing and defense have progressed. The Bluejays are holding opponents to .147 hitting, best in the Valley.
Still, the offense needs to get better in spots, serve receiving needs to be solid and the Bluejays must keep their focus on blocking and serving aggressively.
“Where you run into problems is if you think you are doing something well and you become complacent,” Booth said. “Strengths become weaknesses.”
She admits she frustrates her team with how often she talks about not looking ahead and how a game against a struggling team is as important as one against a league leader. That's even more important now that each team has met once and can exploit what it learned in the first match.
“I don't think any team in the league is good enough to overlook anybody,” she said. “The biggest pitfall is not to get up for every single match.”
Looking back at how Creighton has fared, with wins against six NCAA tournament qualifiers, Booth said she's pleased.
“I think we're solid all the way around, and that's a key to our success,” she said.
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