RPI and consistency.
Those are the key words as the Creighton volleyball teams enters the final month of the regular season.
The Bluejays need to sock away victories, avoid bad losses and establish a more steady offensive attack.
“We can be a special team if everyone is playing a great match,” coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said. “I hope that’s where we are a month from now. That’s what we’re striving to accomplish.”
Avoiding nights like last Friday, when the Bluejays hit a paltry .135 but still beat Xavier, will help take care of protecting their No. 5 RPI ranking.
A team’s RPI is the biggest indicator of who qualifies for the NCAA tournament and who gets a top 16 seed. Although there are 64 teams in the tournament, only the best are seeded.
“For us to be in that mix is huge,” Booth said. “We’re hoping to be in the mix to get a seed, which would allow us to host, which would be another gigantic step forward for the program.”
Although the Bluejays don’t have the tradition to earn a gimme match in the opener, if they host in the opening rounds, they won’t be matched against another top 16 team.
But Booth doesn’t want the Bluejays to get ahead of themselves. There’s a lot of volleyball to be played, she said, starting with rematches this weekend at Marquette and at DePaul.
The Golden Eagles (12-5, 4-1) will be fighting to take first place in the Big East away from Creighton (14-4, 5-1) as well as solidifying their bid for the NCAA tournament.
Marquette, which has won seven of its last eight matches, didn’t play well against CU in the teams’ first match on Oct. 13 in Omaha, and Booth said she’s seen the word revenge mentioned often.
“They really want this match,” she said.
That’s fine with Booth, who said her team relishes the big games.
The Bluejays need to stay up for Saturday’s match at DePaul, too. A loss to the Blue Demons (15-4, 1-4) would be a hit to Creighton’s RPI, Booth said. DePaul started with 13 straight wins but has struggled in league competition.
After this weekend, CU will start playing teams in the Big East it hasn’t seen before. Booth said the early rematches may have been the result of some quick scheduling when the league was formed.
The rematches haven’t been a problem. She’s more concerned with making sure the Jays’ offense is firing more consistently.
Booth said she’s seen a couple of issues.
One is that the Jays are perfectionists who get down on themselves when they make a mistake. That funk can put the team in a quick hole.
“Volleyball is a game of errors. Who can bounce back quickest are the great volleyball teams,” Booth said. “We have to continue to get better. Butler went on a run, we got down and we dropped a game. That just can’t happen.”
Creighton is hitting .222, which Booth said is solid but not exceptional. Six Bluejays, however, are averaging 1.50 kills per set.
“We’re not in a panic situation,” she said. “I’m very confident in our hitters.”