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Creighton volleyball sweeps No. 3 Kentucky and Northern Iowa

Creighton volleyball sweeps No. 3 Kentucky and Northern Iowa

The World-Herald's Jon Nyatawa shares his thoughts on new Creighton Athletic Director

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Creighton's players did get to scream and dance in their locker room after upsetting the reigning national champions Saturday morning. But the celebration didn't last long.

The Jays had another match in five hours.

After they'd survived a five-set thriller against Southern California Friday and knocked off No. 3 Kentucky Saturday morning, this CU squad needed to regroup and recharge for an afternoon match against Northern Iowa.

So coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth turned to her leaders.

"I'm not kidding — the stuff that our upperclassmen were saying on the importance of the (Northern Iowa) match — I was on the outside of the door as they were leaving the locker room," Booth said. "We just have great leadership that made sure the team understood, we have to be ready for a very good Northern Iowa team."

Creighton was indeed ready.

After sweeping the Wildcats Saturday morning, CU recorded a sweep of UNI that afternoon to cap an impressive weekend.

The Jays improved to 6-0. It's their best start in program history.

The victory over Kentucky also marks the first time in school history that Creighton's knocked off a reigning national champ (previously 0-5). The highest-ranked team that CU defeated in school history was previously No. 3 Washington, so Saturday's defeat of the Wildcats matches that feat. Saturday's first win was the 500th career victory for Booth.

The weekend's victories will certainly catapult Creighton up the Top 25 rankings next week — the Jays, who received votes last week, began the year unranked in the preseason poll for the first time since 2015.

But CU's players are also building confidence, Booth said.

"This tells us we have the potential, but now it's a matter of going back into the gym and getting better," she said. "The fun thing is, we as coaches — and I think the team, too — can see areas where we still need to get better in."

That said, Creighton definitely had moments of dominance Saturday.

In the 25-19, 25-22, 27-25 win over Kentucky, CU never trailed by more than three points in any set — until the final moments of the third game. The Wildcats were up 23-20, threatening to extend the match, when the Jays responded.

Creighton scored three straight points to tie it at 23-all. And CU ultimately clinched the match win with a kill by junior Kiana Schmitt and a kill by freshman Norah Sis.

Against UNI, the Jays used an 8-2 run to create a cushion in the first game. They closed the second set with a 6-1 spurt. They dominated the final game to clinch a 25-20, 25-21, 25-11 win.

Senior Jaela Zimmerman, who had 18 kills against Kentucky and 12 more against UNI, was named the weekend's MVP.

Other Creighton standouts on Saturday included Sis (16 kills and 17 digs vs. Kentucky), senior Naomi Hickman (.538 hitting percentage vs. UNI) and senior Abby Bottomley (27 combined digs in the two matches).

The Jays will return to action Wednesday when they host No. 4 Nebraska at the CHI Health Center.

Omaha World-Herald: Local Sports

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