Kirsten Bernthal Booth has to look only to last Friday's five-set win over Wichita State to illustrate what Megan Bober has meant to the Creighton volleyball team.
The Shockers led 10-6, then 13-10 and had match point in the fifth set before Bober took control. The senior from Elmwood-Murdock torched the Shockers with five kills in the 16-14 victory. She finished with 42 assists, 14 kills, 11 digs and seven blocks.
“She had an opportunity to swing on the last ball and she took it,” Booth said. “It was a team effort, but she was definitely a big part of willing her team to win.”
The victory nailed down the Bluejays' first outright Missouri Valley regular-season title. They've won 14 straight matches, pushing them to No. 21 in the AVCA ratings, their highest ranking ever.
Now they're ready to cross off their next goal: winning a league tournament title and an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
Creighton (26-3, 17-1) plays Illinois State in the Missouri Valley tournament semifinals Friday night at 5 in Springfield, Mo. Illinois State beat Southern Illinois in straight sets Thursday to advance. The final is Saturday at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast by Fox Sports Midwest.
“It's definitely a big accomplishment, and it's where we wanted to be going into the tournament,” said Bober, who on Thursday was named the MVC player of the year.
Bober's tranformation into the quarterback of the Bluejays is one of Booth's favorite stories for recruits. It's a tale of hard work she wishes more people knew about.
“If we make the tournament and get on the national stage, people will see how great she is,” the coach said.
Bober wasn't highly recruited out of high school. But CU coaches liked the 6-footer's feet, left arm and physical body. After working with assistant Tom Mendoza on her hands, Bober blossomed as a sophomore and has kept getting better.
“You don't see setters attack with such offensive efficiency that she does,” Booth said.
The three-time first-team All-Missouri Valley selection has started a school-record 124 straight matches and is averaging 9.65 assists, 2.97 digs and 1.86 kills per set. She's had four triple-doubles in the last three weeks and double-doubles in seven of her last eight matches.
She's the only player in the country averaging at least 9.5 assists, 1.5 kills and 0.9 blocks.
With Bober active at the net, teams are forced to spread their block to cover her, too.
“It makes blockers have to jump with her,” Booth said. “Instead of focusing on the hitters, they'll have to focus on her. That creates single blocks for our hitters.”
For Bober, it's all about making her team the best it can be. She's always had good hitters to set to, she said, but this season she has a smorgasboard of powerful attackers.
“We just have such great parity,” she said. “We have offensive options all the way across the front row, so it's not really predictable where we want to go.”
Bober thinks the Jays have already earned a spot in the NCAA tournament, but they'd like to make sure of that by winning the title on Saturday. It won't be easy, with the top six teams so close in talent.
But just like all season, the Bluejays are willing to put in the work to accomplish their goal. It's worked out fine so far.
“It definitely has been an awesome ride,” Bober said. “I don't think it's really sunk in yet, and I don't think it will until it's over. We still have a lot left to accomplish.”
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