Kelli Browning can’t wait to play at home this weekend. She hopes Creighton volleyball fans are just as excited.
“It feels like we’ve been on the road about eight weeks,” she said. “It’s really nice to play on our home court, in front of our fans, and show Omaha what we’ve been working on.”
The Bluejays (10-4) last played at home on Sept. 10, a 3-1 victory over Kansas. They’ve learned a lot since, Browning said.
They’ve picked up confidence in tussles with UCLA and Hawaii, while improving their connection with setter Michelle Sicner and fortifying their defense.
The Jays have been trying to get the little things right, especially after losing their Big East opener last weekend to Butler. They bounced back with a 3-1 win over Xavier, but the loss dropped CU out of the Top 25.
“The good news is, it’s all stuff we’re more than capable of fixing and getting better at,” Browning said.
The Bluejays face a stiff challenge this weekend, hosting DePaul (14-2, 1-2) at 7 p.m. Friday and Marquette (11-4, 3-0) at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The Blue Demons are 11-1 away from home and lead the Big East in kills per set (14.5), assists per set (13.68) and hitting percentage (.295).
First-place Marquette has won six straight, with its only losses coming to teams ranked in the top 13.
DePaul has been a surprise, coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said. Marquette has not.
“Marquette is what we knew Marquette would be,” Booth said. “Their RPI is 15. We are going to have to play great to beat Marquette. I could have told you that in August. It will be a battle.”
Browning, a 6-foot-4 junior middle blocker from outside Milwaukee, had 12 kills and hit .600 when Creighton swept Marquette in last year’s NCAA tournament.
Browning continues to be a key cog in the Bluejay offense, Booth said. She’s a consistent presence in the middle with 1.43 blocks per set, which leads the Big East and ranks eighth nationally. She’s hitting .306 with 2.13 kills per set.
Booth asked her to be a more vocal leader, too, and Browning has responded. When CU is struggling, she tries to rally the team while not focusing on the negatives.
Browning has plenty of help in leading CU’s offense. There’s a strong hitter at every position, Browning said, which allows the team to move the ball around more. Four players are averaging better than two kills per set.
“That makes us a very difficult team to compete with,” she said. “You might be able to block us in the middle, but then we have an outside coming at you. It just gives our team a lot of depth and makes our game that much more effective.”
Booth is hoping last week’s loss was just the nudge the Bluejays needed. After getting that first taste of Big East play, Browning said the Jays have learned they can’t take a night or a point off.
“Coach said teams aren’t going to lose to us, we’re going to have to win,” she said. “That’s a really awesome way of putting that.”
The home-court advantage this weekend could be huge, Browning said. It will be the same next weekend when the Jays host Butler and Xavier.
“I think it could make all the difference in these games,” she said. “We just feel the energy the crowd brings when we make a great play.
“These next two weekends are going to be games you don’t want to miss.”