After a straight-set home loss to California following the highest ranking in school history, the last thing the Creighton volleyball team wanted to do was go on the road for a month on the heels of a two-match losing streak.
That seemed like a possibility Tuesday as the Bluejays dropped the second set against Kansas.
But the No. 24 Bluejays were up to the challenge, recording 13 of their 16 blocks in the final two sets in a 25-21, 15-25, 25-17, 29-27 win in front of 1,031 at Sokol Arena.
Kelli Browning had 15 kills, Leah McNary had 14 and freshman Lauren Smith added 10 to go along with her nine blocks to help CU improve to 5-1.
Kansas didn't go away easily at the end.
The Jayhawks turned away seven match points after going down 24-20 in the final set, scoring off blocks on three straight plays before finally succumbing to Creighton on kills by Jess Bird and Melanie Jereb.
CU coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said the persistence her team used in the final sequence was a result of practice.
“We're up 24-20, KU makes a run. Obviously, you can fall apart at that point,” Booth said.
The Jayhawks were just as persistent on defense as they struggled to stay alive, knocking down Bluejay strikes high above the net.
Booth said Kansas' success at the net didn't change the Jays' gameplan.
“We talk a lot about, in our gym, first-ball kills. That means pass, set and you get an immediate kill,” Booth said. “And every ball after 24-24 when we received it, we had a perfect pass and we had a first-ball kill.
“So again, transferring what we do in practice, that's huge for us.”
Booth said although it is still early in the year, her staff stressed at intermission how important the result could look when it comes to NCAA tournament selection.
“In November, December, this match doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is to the committee,” Booth said.
“And so I think they really stepped up to the challenge. A lot of good things tonight.”
Omaha-area products accounted for much of Kansas’ productivity.
Chelsea Albers, a Papillion-La Vista graduate, had 11 kills, eight blocks and nine digs, while Millard North product Sara McClinton had 11 kills, five blocks and 43 assists.
McClinton was a high school teammate of Creighton’s Michelle Sicner, who led the Jays with 51 assists.
Creighton will travel to the Denver Invitational this weekend for matches against Cal State Northridge and Denver on Friday before taking on No. 11 UCLA on Saturday.
Kansas (4-3) ................. 21 25 17 27
At Creighton (5-1) ......... 25 15 25 29
KU (kills-aces-blocks): Albers 11-1-8, Jarmoc 12-2-4, Soucie 4-0-12, Mathieu 0-0-0, McNorton 2-1-2, Carmichael 1-0-0, Riley 0-1-0, McClinton 11-0-5, Wait 0-1-0, Dockery 9-0-2, Wehrs 0-0-0. Totals 50-6-18.
CU: Jereb 9-0-1, Neisler 0-0-0, Browning 15-0-5, Sicner 3-2-6, Bird 8-1-4, Smith 10-0-9, Jansen 0-0-0, Elman 0-0-0, McNary 14-0-6, Stivers 0-2-0. Totals 59-5-16.
Set assists: KU 48 (McNorton 44, Riley 2, Wait 2), CU 57 (Sicner 51, Bird 4, Neisler 1, Stivers 1).