With Friday’s Big East semifinal opponent already set — regardless of the outcome of Creighton’s match against Villanova — coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth wanted to use the opportunity to fine-tune her team’s fundamentals.
The Bluejays did that, cutting their attack errors from 23 in Friday’s sweep of Georgetown to 12 Sunday as they completed a 25-23, 25-14, 25-21 win in front of a Sokol Arena crowd of 1,010.
Creighton was led by a pair of freshmen in the regular-season finale. Lauren Smith registered 12 kills while Jess Bird added 10 as the Bluejays grabbed the No. 2 seed in the Big East tournament in Omaha.
While Booth said she thought her team was flat in the first set, she was impressed with the way it responded in the next two.
“I didn’t think we played a good first game,” Booth said. “I really thought I saw a lot of changes in Games 2 and 3.
“I felt like we dominated the two games. We haven’t done that because I think we make too many unforced errors, and we limited that today.”
Kelli Browning and Michelle Sicner were able to neutralize Villanova’s middle and outside attacks, combining for 14 blocks.
Creighton (21-7, 12-4 Big East)will take on No. 3 seed Xavier (21-10, 12-4) Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Sokol Arena.
Big East regular season champion Marquette will face No. 4 seed Butler Friday at 4 in the other semifinal.
Marquette and Creighton seem to be the safest bets to emerge from the weekend with one of the NCAA tournament’s 64 bids.
The Bluejays entered the weekend with a No. 12 RPI, and the Golden Eagles sat one spot behind at 13.
Xavier likely sits in the most precarious spot with an RPI of 54, while Butler’s RPI is 36th.
Booth said the Musketeers, whom the Bluejays’ beat in both meetings this season, could be dangerous.
“Xavier will need to beat us to have a shot, and they’re playing for their life,” Booth said. “They’re going to be putting everything out there with the hope that they can continue their season.”
On Sunday, Creighton took a tightly contested opening set as Browning registered the final two kills of the set to break a 23-23 tie.
Leading 8-6 in the second set, Creighton used a 6-0 run to break it open and take a 14-6 advantage on the way to a win.
Savannah Smith, who was playing in her final regular-season home match, scored a kill on the final point of the set, her only kill of the match. Smith, a junior with one season of eligibility remaining, plans to graduate in May and will not return to the team.
The Bluejays built a 22-14 lead in the third set, only to see the Wildcats close to 24-21. But Lauren Smith finished Villanova off with the final kill of the match.
Villanova (12-17, 4-12) .......................................... 23 14 21
At Creighton (21-7, 12-4) .......................................... 25 25 25
VU (kills-aces-blocks): Emma Pettit 1-0-1, Brittany Rembert 5-0-3, Carly Edwards 3-0-0, Allie Dibernardo 0-1-0, Gabby Pethokoukis 11-0-2, Lauren Carpenter 6-1-2, Molly O’Neill 9-0-1, Claire Crutchfield 3-0-0, Michelle Adams 0-0-0, Mariah Henley 0-1-0, Ally Moskitis 0-0-0, Julie Joyce 0-1-0.
CU: Ashley Jansen 0-2-0, Melanie Jereb 4-1-2, Kelli Browning 6-0-8, Michelle Sicner 0-0-6, Jess Bird 10-1-4, Lauren Smith 12-0-3, Katie Neisler 1-0-0, Savannah Smith 1-0-0, Amanda Foje 0-0-0, Kate Elman 0-1-0, Leah McNary 5-0-0, Lizzy Stivers 0-0-0.
Set assists: VU 33 (Pettit 30, Pethokoukis 2, Carpenter 1), CU 34 (Sicner 33, Jansen 1). Att.: 1,010.