While Michelle Sicner wasn't able to equal her dominant performances last weekend that earned her AVCA national player of the week honors, she still knew what to do with the ball as the match and first place hung in the balance.
Sicner's kill in the fifth set clinched a 19-25, 26-24, 25-21, 14-25, 15-13 nail-biter against Xavier in front of a Sokol Arena crowd of 1,832.
The win leap-frogged the Bluejays over the Musketeers into the top spot in the Big East as they improved to 4-1 in the conference and 13-4 overall. Creighton holds a half-game lead over Marquette, which was idle Friday.
The win was the 200th at Creighton for coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth.
“We were lucky to get a win tonight,” said Booth, whose team was outscored 109-102 by the Musketeers. “Xavier played phenomenal volleyball. Balls that we thought were going to be down, all of a sudden they throw out an arm and it's back up.”
Sicner registered six kills, 41 set assists and 16 digs for her seventh straight double-double, good for the second-longest streak in school history. She can tie the record with an eighth Sunday.
Sicner said she planned to pass the ball to Leah McNary for the game-winner but changed her mind at the last second when she saw an opening.
“I had my mind set,” Sicner said. “I was going to Leah on that last ball, but I saw that (the Musketeers) were spread, so I saw an opportunity and it worked.”
McNary and Kelli Browning each had 14 kills and five blocks to lead CU.
The Bluejays struggled to contain Xavier freshman Abbey Bessler, who followed her 20-kill performance in a four-set loss to Creighton two weeks ago with 21 more Friday.
Booth said her team forced Bessler to attack a wall of defenders, but that didn't slow Bessler down much.
“Where she was so good was out of system,” Booth said. “What we are usually good at is that we put up a big block. We put up a big wall, and she just over and over got kills. It was very frustrating.”
The Bluejays didn't do themselves any favors in the opening set, as they committed nine attack errors for a .000 hitting percentage to three Musketeer errors.
Creighton finally got its first lead at any point in the match when a Bessler attack error put CU up 19-18 in the second set in the midst of a 6-2 run that would result in a 23-20 lead.
The Musketeers were able to fight back to tie the set at 23-23, but Jess Bird and Kelli Browning iced it with consecutive kills.
Leah McNary had four kills and the Bluejays outblocked Xavier 5-0 to nab the third set, giving Creighton a 2-1 lead.
The Musketeers stormed back in the fourth set, outhitting the Jays .359-.108 and winning the block battle 3-0 to send the match to a fifth set.
Creighton will host Butler on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Bulldogs handed the Bluejays their only Big East loss in their conference opener Oct. 4 in four sets.
Xavier (12-5, 4-2) ...................................... 25 24 21 25 13
At Creighton (13-4, 4-1) ............................ 19 26 25 14 15
XU (kills-aces-blocks): Alex Blair 9-2-4, Makayla Agin 9-0-1, Abbey Bessler 21-0-2, Aubree Smith 6-1-3, Alex Smith 8-0-2, Sarah Brown 12-0-0, Kelsey Dunaway 0-0-0, Sariah Suryadevara 0-0-0, Lauren Metzger 0-0-0.
CU: Melanie Jereb 2-0-0, Kelli Browning 14-0-5, Michelle Sicner 6-0-3, Leah McNary 14-0-5, Jess Bird 9-0-2, Lauren Smith 5-0-7, Ashley Jansen 0-0-0, Savannah Smith 2-0-3, Kate
Elman 0-0-0, Lizzy Stivers 0-0-0.
Set assists: XU 63 (Aubree Smith 46, Brown 5, Alex Smith 4, Metzger 4, Bessler 3, Suryadevara 1), CU 49 (Sicner 41, Bird 3, Jereb 2, Elman 2, Jansen 1).
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Video: Coach Booth talks about her 200th win: