Published Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm / Updated at 1:29 am
volleyball
Bluejays earn MVC tourney title, NCAA berth
2012 MVC All-Tournament team
Olivia Brand, Missouri State
Krista DeGeest, UNI
Chelsey Feekin, Wichita State
Elizabeth Field, Wichita State
Brooklyn Hlafka, Illinois State
Melanie Jereb, Creighton
Leah McNary, Creighton
Taylor Pippen, Southern Illinois
MVP: Megan Bober, Creighton

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — It seemed fitting that the Creighton volleyball team’s first Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship came on a sweep and yet another steely-nerved comeback.

It was the kind of rally, and the kind of victory, that has come to define Creighton’s season.

The Bluejays came back from a 19-12 deficit in the third set to sweep Wichita State 25-18, 25-20, 25-23 and add another chapter to the best season in program history at the Hammons Student Center.

“I’m cherishing this moment. I just want to enjoy this group and spend as much time with them as possible,” Bluejays coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said. “But we still need to get them coached up for the NCAA tournament.”

Yes, the coach said, there’s still work to be done for this team after capturing the program’s first MVC regular-season and tournament championships within a couple of weeks of each other.

The Bluejays (28-3) will find out their tournament assignment during Sunday’s selection show, which starts at 3 p.m. and will be aired on ESPNU. The team will host a watch party at the Old Mattress Factory.

“Wherever we’re going, we’re going in there with the idea to win,” Booth said. “We said at the beginning of the year that we wanted to make the NCAA tournament. But we had to sit down about halfway through the season and say, ‘that’s not enough.’ We had to change our goals and say we want to go to the Sweet 16. This team isn’t happy with just getting there.”

Getting there, though, has been part of the fun. Saturday’s win extended the Jays’ school-record winning streak to 16 matches and school record for wins to 28.

The Bluejays also boast the Valley’s player of the year and tournament most valuable player in setter Megan Bober. The senior from Murdock, Neb., had eight kills, 26 assists, 10 digs and two blocks against WSU.

“We came in (to this match) knowing we had to be prepared,” Bober said. “It’s an awesome feeling. I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s incredible.”
Bober orchestrated an offense that put each set away with a late run.

After leading 17-16 in the opening set, the Bluejays used an 8-2 run to close things out. The second set was tied at 19 before Creighton went on a 6-1 run.
And then there was the clincher.

Wichita State bolted to a 7-2 lead, and eventually led 19-12 with Creighton having burned both its timeouts.

The Shockers led 21-15 before Creighton scored three straight, and were ahead 22-18 before the Bluejays scored seven of the match’s last eight points.
The final point came on an ace serve from senior Brooke Boggs.

“For them to battle back like that … Wichita State was in total control,” Booth said. “We were just trying to get momentum for set four.”

Four players had at least five kills for the Bluejays, led by sophomore Leah McNary’s 11 kills on .333 hitting. Freshman Melanie Jereb had 10 kills and eight digs, and sophomore Kelli Browning had five kills and four blocks.

It was Creighton’s first sweep since Nov. 9 against Indiana State, and the kind of start to a match the Bluejays had been wanting for the better part of a month.

Creighton dominated at the net in the first two sets, rolling up 10 total blocks while holding the Shockers to .026 hitting on 22 kills and 20 attack errors.
WSU hit just .076 for the match, and only one Shocker with at least 10 attacks hit .200.

“We needed to come out on fire right off the bat,” said Browning, the Valley’s defensive player of the year. “For us to have a start like that, it gave us the confidence we needed in the third set to come back and win.”

Ashlyn Driskill led Wichita State with nine kills. Emily Adney added eight and Ashley Andrade finished with six.

Shockers junior setter Chelsey Feekin, a Papillion-La Vista graduate, had seven kills, 21 assists and 14 digs.

“I never felt like we had any energy,” Wichita State coach Chris Lamb said. “Big picture, we came into this thing trying to win it and improve our status (as an NCAA at-large pick). I feel we did that. But we were flat tonight, and I’m not happy about it.”

Wichita State, which Friday night ended Northern Iowa’s run of three consecutive Valley tournament titles, sits on the NCAA tournament bubble and needed a win Saturday to ensure itself a spot in the field.

But Saturday night, much like the season, belonged to the Bluejays.

“We played a great match tonight,” Booth said. “It was quite the comeback. And it’s a testament to this team.

“They’re not going to give up.”

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