Posted By: Sports
Courtesy: Creighton Athletics
This Week - 2016 NCAA Tournament
Dec. 1 4:00 pm Northern Iowa vs. #21 Creighton (ESPN3) Lawrence, Kan.
Dec. 1 6:30 pm Samford at #4 Kansas (ESPN3) Lawrence, Kan.
Dec. 2 6:30 pm UNI/CU Winner vs. SU/KU Winner (ESPN3) Lawrence, Kan.
Matches to be played at Horejsi Family Athletics Center
No. 21 Creighton (26-6, 18-0 BIG EAST) is in the postseason for the fifth straight fall, where it will meet Northern Iowa (24-9, 14-4 MVC) in the very first match of the entire 2016 NCAA Tournament.
Thursday’s contest will take place at 4 pm Central.
Thursday’s winner advances to play the victor of the Samford (21-13, 9-7 Southern) at No. 4 Kansas (26-2, 15-1 Big 12) match on Friday at 6:30 pm with a berth in the Sweet 16 on the line.
All three matches in the Lawrence sub-Regional will be video webcast for free on ESPN3.com. Leif Lisec and Jill Hall will announce.
Creighton’s matches will not be available locally on radio, but UNI’s radio broadcast with Chris Kleinhans-Schulz on the call can be heard at unipanthers.com.
Live Stats Information
All matches from the Lawrence sub-Regional this week will have live stats, with links at http://kansas.statbroadcast.com.
Creighton is currently 26-6 overall, dropping just five sets while finishing off the only 18-0 mark in BIG EAST history.
Creighton’s 20-match win streak is a school-record and has helped the Bluejays remain No. 21 in this week’s national rankings.
Junior setter and BIG EAST Player of the Year Lydia Dimke (11.37 aps., 2.75 dps., 1.24 kps., .321%) has posted 15 double-doubles in 32 starts.
Second-team all-BIG EAST middle blockers Marysa Wilkinson (2.41 kps., 0.93 bps., .337%) and Lauren Smith (2.25 kps., 0.92 bps., .345%) rank among the best in the BIG EAST at what they do, and have hit a combined .371 with 149 blocks in CU’s last 23 matches.
Others to keep an eye are First Team All-BIG EAST outside hitters Jaali Winters (3.48 kps., 2.84 dps.) and Taryn Kloth (3.30 kps., .303%). Winters was named BIG EAST Tournament MVP last week.
Creighton averages 14.79 kills, 1.44 aces, 15.99 digs and 2.20 blocks per set while hitting .281 as a team.
Last year Creighton went 27-9, winning BIG EAST regular-season and tournament titles, before advancing to the program’s first Sweet 16.
Scouting Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa went 24-9 this season, including a 14-4 Missouri Valley Conference record that earned it the third seed. The Panthers swept Loyola (Chicago) in the MVC Tournament quarterfinals before falling in four hard-fought sets to eventual champion Wichita State.
Bri Weber (3.19 kps., 3.64 dps.) leads the team in kills per set, just ahead of Amie Held (3.12 kps., 3.68 dps.) and Kayla Haneline (3.09 kps., .314%).
Setter Heather Hook (11.13 aps., 2.59 dps.) and libero Kendyl Sorge (5.09 dps.) also star for Northern Iowa.
As a team, Northern Iowa averages 14.48 kills, 1.29 aces, 18.71 digs and 2.19 blocks per set on .225 hitting.
Northern Iowa went 19-15 last year and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Creighton is coached by Kirsten?Bernthal Booth (Truman State, 1997), who owns a 288-152 record in her 14th season with the Bluejays. She’s led Creighton to back-to-back-to-back BIG EAST titles, and five league crowns in the last six years. Last year, she also led the Bluejays to their first Sweet 16 in program history after winning the Chapel Hill sub-Regional. She has been named 2015 BIG EAST Coach of the Year, 2015 AVCA East Region Coach of the Year and 2016 BIG EAST Coach of the Year in the last 13 months.
She was also named the 2010 CVU.com National Coach of the Year after leading Creighton to the second round during its first NCAA?Tournament appearance, and named the CaptainU College Coach of the Year, as well as the MVC Coach of the Year, in 2012 following another run to the second round of the NCAA’s and a school-record 29 victories.
The winningest coach in school history, Booth has led Creighton to its only six NCAA Tournament bids in the program’s modern history. She’s also led the Jays into the top-25 each of the last five years, another program first.
Booth came to Creighton after going 112-41 in three years at Kirkwood Community?College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A native of Lincoln, Neb., Booth played volleyball at Truman State, where she was named conference MVP, an Academic All-American and Missouri’s 1997 NCAA?Woman of the Year. She ranked third in Division?II?history with 6,077 assists when she graduated.
Booth is assisted by Ryan Meek, Angie Oxley Behrens and Micah Rhodes.
UNI is coached by Bobbi Petersen (Northern Iowa, 1990), who owns a 434-131 record in her 17th year with the Panthers. Petersen was named 2002 AVCA?National Coach of the Year and also earned MVC?Coach of the Year honors in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. She is 9-11 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including Sweet 16 trips in 2001 and 2002. Petersen ranks 12th nationally among active coaches in winning percentage (.769) and is assisted by Kalani Mahi, Kim Davis and Jonny Olson.
Series History vs. Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa owns a 41-7 record all-time against Creighton, including 4-2 mark on neutral floors. The 48 meetings are more than any other Bluejay opponent since CU restarted its program in 1994, and the teams have met at least once in every season since then except 2013.
Creighton has won four of the last five meetings in the series, including a 2014 neutral site match in Lexington, Ky., when CU overcame an 0-2 deficit to beat the Panthers, and a 3-0 sweep on September 2, 2016 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth is 7-22 vs. Northern Iowa and 7-22 vs. Bobbi Petersen. Petersen is 29-7 overall against Creighton.
Four of CU’s seven wins against the Panthers have come in five sets. In 48 all-time meetings, Creighton has swept the Panthers just twice (Nov. 21, 2008 and Sept. 2, 2016).
Last Weekend Summary
Creighton swept both Seton Hall and Xavier en route to its third consecutive title at the BIG EAST Championships. Jaali Winters was named MVP after averaging 4.67 kills and 3.00 digs per set, while Lauren Smith (3.50 kps.) and Lydia Dimke (11.33 aps., 2.67 dps.) also hauled in All-Tournament Team accolades.
NCAA Tournament History
Creighton is making its sixth appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the past seven years after earning a fifth straight bid to the Big Dance. Last year the team earned its first Sweet 16 appearance.
The Bluejays are 5-5 in its five previous appearances, and have knocked off the likes of Iowa State (2010), Marquette (2012), Arkansas (2013), Coastal Carolina (2015) and North Carolina (2015) in those trips.
Creighton is 4-1 in first round play, 1-3 in the second round and 0-1 in the Regional semifinal round. The Bluejays are also 4-2 at neutral-site matches and 1-3 in true road games.
Creighton is also 1-2 in two previous NCAA sub-Regionals hosted by Kansas, going 1-1 in 2013 in Lawrence (at Allen Fieldhouse) and 0-1 in 2014 in Topeka.
Kirsten Bernthal Booth is 5-5 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
Familiar Rivals Get Reacquainted
Thursday’s match-up with Northern Iowa will be Creighton’s 49th against the Panthers since the program’s restart in 1994, the most of any opponent.
The only other teams that Creighton has played more than 40 times are Wichita State (44) and Illinois State (43).
UNI is the only opponent to defeat Creighton more than 30 times, something the Panthers have done 41 times.
Kirsten Bernthal Booth joined some select company when she directed her troops to a sixth NCAA Tournament. That puts her in the company of some of the greatest coaches in CU Athletics history.
Booth is one of five head coaches in Creighton history to lead six different NCAA Tournament teams.
Don’t I Know You?
Creighton and Kansas are in the same sub-Regional bracket for the third time in the last four years, but this is the third different venue to host those contests.
In 2013, Creighton fell to Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.
In 2014, both Creighton and Kansas lost in the first round when facility conflicts caused the tournament to move to Topeka.
The teams were assigned different brackets last fall, but both advanced to the Sweet 16 and were in the San Diego Regional. Ironically enough, Kansas emerged to its first Final Four where it would end up in Omaha.
This year’s matches will take place in Lawrence, but in the Horejsi Family Athletics Center, which is located next to Allen Fieldhouse.
It’s also worth noting that Creighton and Omaha have also hosted the Kansas men’s basketball team during the first weekend of the 2008, 2012 and 2015 NCAA Tournaments.
Been There, Done That
There’s few visiting facilities that Creighton should be more familiar with than the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
Thursday’s match vs. UNI will be Creighton’s fifth match in the building in the last five years.
The Bluejays opened the 2014 season with three matches there in the Kansas Invitational, where it marked the collegiate debuts of current juniors Marysa Wilkinson and Kenzie Crawford.
Creighton and Kansas also locked horns in a five-set thriller at Horejsi in 2012.
Going back even further, Creighton also played three matches at Horejsi in the 2009 Jayhawk Invitational, which means Thursday will be the Bluejays’ eighth match in the facility in the past eight seasons.
Creighton also played three matches at Horejsi in the 2003 Hampton Inn/Jayhawk Classic during Kirsten Bernthal Booth’s first season at the helm of the Bluejays.
Connections To UNI And The State of Iowa
Creighton and UNI have numerous connections between the two schools.
Head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth grew up during part of her childhood in the Cedar Falls suburb of Waterloo, and attended grad school at the University of Iowa. She got her first college head coaching job at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Creighton Director of Athletics Bruce Rasmussen is a 1971 graduate of Northern Iowa. He has been at Creighton since 1980, including the Athletic Director since 1994.
Northern Iowa women’s basketball head coach Tanya Warren played at Creighton and has spent two stints as an assistant coach with the Bluejays. One of two players in program history with a retired number, Warren played for Rasmussen.
Creighton Sports Information Director and volleyball contact Rob Anderson worked as Northern Iowa’s volleyball SID in 2000 and 2001.
Creighton sophomore DS Samantha Bohnet was a high school teammate of UNI’s Delaney Bolton in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at Abraham Lincoln HS, though Bolton is one year older.
Besides Bohnet, Creighton has three other student-athletes from Iowa. Mac Conlon is from Iowa City, while Megan Ballenger and Jaali Winters are both from Ankeny. In addition, volunteer assistant coach Micah Rhodes spent the last four seasons as an assistant at Buena Vista University.
Creighton and Northern Iowa have played all but one season since Creighton restarted volleyball in 1994.
The teams were Missouri Valley Conference rivals who played twice annually from 1994-2012, plus six more MVC Tournament meetings.
The teams did not play in 2013, but have played each of the past three campaigns as part of a four-year tournament that also includes Kentucky and USC.
Creighton rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win in Lexington in 2013, got beat in Cedar Falls last year, and won in three sets in Los Angeles in September.
So Very Close
Though Creighton came away with a 25-20, 32-30, 27-25 sweep when the teams met on September 2nd in Los Angeles, by no means was its victory over UNI a walk in the park.
Creighton trailed 19-17 in the first set before an 8-1 run to take the opener.
Creighton saved six set points in 32-30 second set victory.
The Bluejays trailed 19-15 and 23-21 in the third set before a final rally to clinch the match.
That match featured 35 ties and 14 lead changes. The 35 ties equals a season-high (also Oct. 22 vs. Marquette), while the 14 lead changes is a high for any match regardless length this fall.
What A Difference A Seed Makes
With an RPI of 17 and an aggressive bid financially, Creighton was in close contention for one of the schools in contention for a host spot during the NCAA Tournament.
Creighton has won 24 of its last 25 home matches, falling only in a five-set loss to Kansas on Sept. 8th.
Kansas owns a 16-match home winning streak, which ranks fourth-longest nationally, and is 27-1 at home since the start of 2015. The only loss came in 2015 in five sets to Texas.
History of No. 5 Seeds
The 2016 NCAA Tournament marks the 16th year of the NCAA Tournament in the rally scoring era.
In that time, the No. 5 seeds (such as Kansas in 2016) are 14-1 in the opening round. The only upset came in 2010, when Northern Iowa (ironically, Creighton’s foe on Thursday) was beaten by Missouri.
Since 2001, the No. 5 seed has advanced to the Sweet 16 (or further) 12 times, including 2014 national champion Penn State and four other teams that reached the Final Four.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that no fewer than 10-of-16 seeds have reached the Sweet 16 in each of the last 15 seasons.
The last team to go on the road on the opening weekend in consecutive seasons and reach the Sweet 16 both times is BYU in 2013 and 2014.
Creighton and Northern Iowa shared five common opponents, all of whom are still playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Creighton went 1-4 against those teams, while UNI went 4-3.
Wichita State WSU 3-2 UNI 3-1
Wichita State - UNI 3-0
Against Tourney Teams
Both Creighton and Northern Iowa played challenging schedules throughout the season. Creighton went 5-6 against teams in the field of 64, while UNI went 5-7 against NCAA-bound squads.
In those matches, Jaali Winters led Creighton with 3.60 kills per set and was second with 3.35 digs per set. Lauren Smith hit a team-best .297, while freshmen Megan Ballenger and Brittany Witt each had eight service aces. Both Winters and Lydia Dimke had seven double-doubles in those matches against the best of the best.
Jaali Steps Up
Jaali Winters played some of her best volleyball against the best teams on Creighton’s schedule this fall.
In 16 matches against teams with an RPI of 75 or better, Winters averaged 3.84 kills and 3.16 digs per set. She owned nine double-doubles in those contests.
By comparison, in 16 matches against teams with an RPI of 76 or worse, Winters averaged 3.00 kills per set and 2.40 digs per set, finishing with one double-double. Creighton went 16-0 in those matches, dropping just a single set. The Bluejays hit .339 and averaged 2.71 blocks per set as a team in those contests
Elite Defense vs. Elite Offense
What happens when one of the nation’s best defenses meets one of the nation’s top offenses? We’re going to find out on Thursday.
Creighton enters the weekend third in the country in kills per set (14.79) and 11th in hitting percentage (.281).
Northern Iowa leads the nation with 18.71 digs per set, holding opponents to a .161 hitting percentage (17th-best nationally).
Taryn Kloth earned First Team All-BIG EAST honors, but you can’t blame Northern Iowa if she’s not a focal point on the scouting report.
Kloth was injured for the 2015 match-up, and had one kill in seven swings while playing just one set in this September’s meeting.
One day after topping UNI, Kloth’s fortunes changed as she was moved to the left side for the final 28 matches of the season.
In that time, she’s had matches of 23 (USC), 15 (No. 4 Kansas), 17 (Chattanooga) and 20 (Villanova) kills. The average of 11.86 kills per match is especially impressive since she entered this stretch with a career-high of 16 kills in the first 34 matches of her career.
Creighton is 40-5 all-time when Kloth hits .182 or better, 24-2 when she starts, and 43-8 when she has five or more kills in a match.
Back-To-Back-To-Back BIG EAST Champs
Creighton won a third straight BIG EAST Championship title last weekend, becoming the first to do so since Louisville won three straight titles from 2008-10.
It was Creighton’s fifth straight league tournament title game appearance dating to the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference title.
Lauren Smith made a little bit of history last weekend when she was named to the All-Tournament Team at the BIG EAST Championship.
She became the first player in program history to be named to the All-Tournament Team at three different league championships, as she was previously MVP in 2014 and on the All-Tournament team in 2013.
Smith has been named to 11 different All-Tournament Teams in her career.
Bluejays Collect The Hardware
Creighton had quite a haul of honors as the BIG EAST named its All-Conference Team on Nov. 23rd.
Lydia Dimke was named BIG EAST Player of the Year, while Kirsten Bernthal Booth leads a staff named BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year for the second straight season.
Booth is the first person to earn consecutive BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors since Notre Dame’s Debbie Brown in 2000 and 20001.
Dimke is Creighton’s first BIG EAST Player of the Year in program history, and joins Megan Bober as the only Bluejay volleyball player ever named league Player of the Year. Bober was honored in 2012 by the Missouri Valley Conference.
In addition to Dimke, Jaali Winters and Taryn Kloth were named First Team All-BIG EAST, while Lauren Smith and Marysa Wilkinson were Second Team All-BIG EAST honorees.
This is the second First Team All-Conference award for Winters, and first for both Dimke and Kloth.
It’s the first time Wilkinson has been named to an All-BIG EAST team, while Smith sandwiched a First Team pick in 2015 with second-team honors in both 2014 and 2016.
Five Straight NCAA’s
Not only is Creighton making an unprecedented fifth straight NCAA trip for the volleyball team, but it is the first Creighton women’s team in any sport to make five straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
-Creighton owns an NCAA RPI of 17 in this week’s official rankings.
-The winning percentage of Creighton’s opponents is 10th-best nationally (.619).
-Creighton won the BIG EAST Conference, the nation’s ninth-best league, by five full games in the standings.
-Creighton has won 20 straight, and 22 of its last 23 matches, with the lone loss being a 3-1 setback at Nebraska in which CU squandered three set points that could have given the Jays a 2-1 lead.
-Creighton ranks nationally tied for 10th in victories and tied for 15th in road victories this season.
Creighton won its fourth regular-season title in program history in 2016.
Creighton’s first league title in program history came in 2012, when the Bluejays went 17-1 to win the Missouri Valley Conference title. That team went on to win the MVC Tournament title, as well.
In 2014, Creighton went 16-2 in league play and swept the BIG EAST regular-season and tournament crowns.
Last year Creighton went 17-1 to win the BIG EAST, then won a pair of BIG EAST Championship contests to take home a second straight title.
This year’s club also won the regular-season and tournament titles in the BIG EAST.
Since joining the BIG EAST prior to the 2013-14 school year, Creighton has won BIG EAST regular-season titles in baseball (2014), men’s soccer (2014) and volleyball (2014, 2015 and 2016), and BIG EAST Championship titles in volleyball (2014, 2015 and 2016).
Senior Weekend A Success
Creighton honored Jess Bird, Amanda Foje and Lauren Smith following last its Nov. 20 match vs. Villanova as part of the program’s annual Senior Day festivities.
Bird and Foje have been at Creighton for four years while Smith is in her fifth year after redshirting the 2012 campaign. In that time, these women have combined to win 10 regular-season conference titles and 10 conference tournament rings.
The Bluejays are 130-37 in the past five seasons, including an 82-8 mark in conference play. All five teams have been nationally ranked at some point, and this group will become part of the first women’s program in Creighton history to appear in five straight NCAA Tournaments.
Smith and Bird were named BIG EAST Tournament MVP in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and both women have been named First Team All-Conference in past seasons as well as nominees for the Senior CLASS Award. After one ace in 22 matches during her first two seasons, Foje has emerged as a valuable serving weapon for the Bluejays, dealing 27 aces in her last 67 contests.
All told, the trio has combined for 2,092 kills, 94 aces, 1,191 digs and 694 blocks.
20 Straight Wins
Creighton enters the NCAA Tournament with 20 straight victories, a streak that’s the longest stretch in program history.
That’s three more than the previous program record of 17 straight, set in 2012.
Each of the 10 longest win streaks in program history have come under the direction of Kirsten Bernthal Booth.
Most Consecutive Wins, Creighton History
Jays Run The Table
One year after setting a BIG EAST record with 17 conference victories, Creighton broke its own BIG EAST record for league wins in a season with 18.
It’s the first team in BIG EAST history to finish 18-0, and Creighton became the first team since Notre Dame’s 2001 club to go unbeaten in both BIG EAST regular-season and tournament play.
Here’s a look at the most consecutive wins to start league play in BIG EAST history:
Consecutive Wins To Start BIG EAST Play
Longest Win Streaks, Nationally
Creighton is one of three schools with an active win streak of 20 or longer, through matches of November 30th. Here’s that list:
Back-to-Back-To-Back BIG EAST Champs
Creighton locked up a third straight BIG EAST regular-season title with two wins over Providence on Nov. 11-12.
St. John’s had been the last BIG EAST team to win a share of three straight titles, having done so from 2006-08, while Notre Dame had been the last team to win three or more straight outright BIG EAST regular-season titles, having claimed four in a row from 1999-2002.
The Irish were also the last team to go unbeaten in league play, having done so in 2009 (14-0).
Automatic Bid x 3
Creighton is one of nine schools nationally to earn an automatic bid into the 2014, 2015 and 2016 NCAA Tournaments. That grouping includes New Hampshire, Dayton, Creighton, Coastal Carolina, Western Kentucky, American, Denver and BYU.
Of those teams, the only six schools to win a conference tournament in consecutive campaigns have been American, Coastal Carolina, Creighton, Dayton, Denver and New Hampshire.
Magic Number Three
Creighton won its third straight BIG EAST regular-season title, and its third straight BIG EAST Championship title last weekend in Indianapolis.
One key reason for the success is the team’s performance in the third set. Creighton went 20-0 against league foes in the third set this year. In those 20 matches, the opponent scored 20+ points on just six occasions.
Dating back to last season Creighton has won 26 straight third sets in regular-season BIG EAST contests, and the team to win the third set has won each of Creighton’s last 30 regular-season BIG EAST matches.
119, 120, 121...
Lauren Smith has made 121 straight starts, a streak that started Oct. 5, 2013 in a match at Xavier that also doubled as Creighton’s first BIG EAST win in program history.
The streak of 121 straight starts is the second-longest in program history, trailing only former setter Megan Bober (128).
Smith passed Bober’s record for career starts on Nov. 12 vs. Providence when she made her 129th career start.
Smith also has played in a school-record 134 career matches and 493 career sets.
Smith continues to rise up the charts in sets played, matches played, matches started and wins appeared in.
Most Wins, Appeared In As A Player
Creighton’s Lydia Dimke leads the BIG EAST and is 12th nationally with 11.37 assists per set. Should she maintain that mark, it’d be the best in school history since the shift to 25-point sets prior to the 2008 season.
Each of Creighton’s last 26 matches have been won by the team with more assists, and Creighton has not lost to a BIG EAST team when owning more assists since Nov. 16, 2013 at Seton Hall. Creighton leads the BIG EAST with 13.59 assists per set this season.
Dimke Named BIG EAST Player of the Week
Lydia Dimke was named the BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week on Monday, Nov. 7.
Dimke had a pair of double-doubles to pace Creighton on both ends of the floor as the Bluejays swept Butler and Xavier to tie a BIG EAST record for best league start in history at 14-0. The junior setter averaged 12.00 assists, 3.67 digs and 1.17 kills per set while hitting .400 and setting her offense to .379 efficiency.
Dimke had match-highs with both 36 assists and 12 digs while adding four kills in seven swings during a 3-0 sweep of Butler on Friday. She set the Bluejay offense to .415 hitting, the fifth-best mark in program history, and her defensive prowess helped hold a Butler team that led the nation in kills to just 25.
In Sunday’s 3-0 sweep of third-place Xavier, Dimke finished with a near-identical line. She had team-highs with 36 assists and 10 digs, and added four kills and an ace. Dimke set her offense to a .347 hitting percentage, but her best moments came in the second set. With Creighton trailing 17-11, Dimke served up five straight points to get CU within one. Later with CU up 23-22, Dimke provided a setter dump from the 10-foot line to key a 25-22 victory that help secure CU’s school-record 16th sweep of 2016.
Dimke’s performance over the weekend helped the Ham Lake, Minn., native move into the league lead in assists per set, as she also moved over the 1,000 assist milestone on Nov. 6th.
Creighton In Top 25
The Creighton Volleyball team remains No. 21 in this week’s American Volleyball Coaches Association top-25 poll, and up a spot to 17th in the Nov. 28 release of the NCAA Volleyball RPI.
The No. 21 ranking in the AVCA poll is the highest for the program since the program’s preseason ranking of No. 18 that remains the best mark in program history. The No. 21 mark also ties the team’s best poll rank ever for the final regular-season poll (also 2012).
The Bluejays are 29-9 all-time when ranked, including a 28-4 mark against unranked competition, with this being the 19th different time it has been in the top-25. The 2016 season is the fifth straight season that Creighton has been ranked, after never earning a top-25 nod between 1994-2011.
The volleyball team is one of three Creighton teams that are currently in the top-25 in the national polls, joining men’s basketball (No. 10) men’s soccer (No. 23). On a national basis, only Creighton, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Kentucky are ranked in those three sports.
Ballenger Is Ballin’
Redshirt freshman Megan Ballenger has 26 aces and just 16 service errors in her last 17 matches played.
Her 38 aces lead the BIG EAST Conference, as do her 0.40 aces per set.
In league play, Ballenger averaged an even better 0.52 aces per set, and her 25 aces were four more than any other woman in the BIG EAST.
Ballenger’s 38 aces are tied for eighth-most in Creighton history for one season, and her 0.404 aces per set would place her fifth in school history.
Service Aces Per Set (Min. 20 SA)
Ballenger Earns Third Weekly Frosh Award
Megan Ballenger was named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week for the third time this season on October 31st.
The Ankeny, Iowa, product previously earned the award on September 12th and September 19th. She is one of five players in the BIG EAST to win multiple Freshman of the Week honors this fall, but the only player with three such honors.
Ballenger powered Creighton to an undefeated weekend by averaging 3.33 points, 2.17 kills, 1.67 blocks and 1.17 digs per set while hitting .500.
Ballenger’s week started with four kills, three blocks, two digs and an ace in a 3-0 win at Seton Hall. She then hit .727 with nine kills in 11 swings, five digs and a career-high seven blocks in a 3-0 win over St. John’s.
The redshirt freshman led BIG EAST play with 0.52 service aces per set and was 11th with a .318 hitting percentage.
The Champs Are Here
The Bluejays are back-to-back-to-back BIG EAST Tournament champions, the first repeat champs since Louisville won three straight from 2008-2010.
Creighton is 7-1 all-time in four appearances at the BIG EAST Championships, reaching the final each time.
Dating back to its Missouri Valley Conference days, this was Creighton’s 14th straight appearance in a league tournament after appearing in just 4-of-9 tournaments prior to Kirsten Bernthal Booth’s arrival.
Creighton is third in the nation in kills per set (14.79), eighth nationally in assists per set (13.59) and 11th in hitting percentage (.281).
Last year Creighton finished the year ranked second in the nation in assists (1,774) and was third in kills (1,878) while hitting .248 to rank 47th nationally.
Creighton swept 14-of-18 BIG EAST matches, and has broken out the brooms in 21 contests overall this fall. In fact, in the month of November, Creighton swept 7-of-8 matches it has played, while the other 23 matches involving league teams saw just six end in three sets.
The 21 sweeps are the most in one season in Creighton history, eclipsing the 13 sweeps a year ago.
Even with its Nov. 20th five-set win, Creighton has swept 13 of its last 15 regular-season BIG EAST home matches, and won 48 of its last 51 home sets during conference play.
Creighton has played 70 regular-season BIG EAST matches in its four-year history in the league, and swept 37 of them, including 24 of its last 36.
Creighton’s pair of 3-0 victories in the BIG EAST Championship made the Bluejays the first team to win the title without dropping a set since Louisville in 2012.
Control In Conference
Creighton went 18-0 in BIG EAST play this season, winning 54-of-59 sets played. Creighton is one of eight teams in the country that went unbeaten in league play.
On a national basis, Creighton’s winning percentage in sets played during league action ranks fifth-best among the unbeaten teams.
Blue October (And November)
Since the start of the 2012 season, Creighton has been a solid 39-21 in September, only to take it up a notch in October. CU is 39-4 in October in that same span, and an identical 39-4 in the month of November.
Creighton has won 21 straight home matches in the month of October dating to a Oct. 15, 2011 loss to No. 12 Northern Iowa.
Creighton has won 17 straight November matches, with seven of those wins coming in 2015.
Creighton finished 9-0 in October this year, its second unbeaten October in history (7-0 in 2012). The only other time that Creighton had played nine or more matches and gone unbeaten in any month came in November of 2012, when CU went 9-0.
The only other October in which CU had won nine or more matches came in 2015, when CU went 10-1.
Home At Home
Creighton is 12-1 at D.J. Sokol Arena this fall, with 12 straight wins, and has won 21 straight matches against BIG EAST competition there.
Below is a look at the program’s largest home win streaks in history.
Creighton’s Longest Home Win Streaks
Smith Adds A Weapon
Long known as one of the best middle hitters in the BIG EAST, fifth-year senior Lauren Smith is now showing off a new weapon behind the service line.
Smith entered Creighton’s Marquette match on October 22 with one ace in 123 career matches.
Since then, Smith has nine aces in her last 11 matches played.
Another 20 Win Season
Creighton is 26-6 this year, securing 20 victories for the eighth time in the program’s modern history. This is the fifth straight year the Bluejays have reached 20 wins.
When Kirsten Bernthal Booth was hired in 2003, Creighton’s modern day school record for wins in a season was 16.
The following 25 schools entered this year with four straight seasons of 20+ wins, and are listed with their 2016 record entering the NCAA Tournament:
Dimke Surpasses 1,000 Assists
Lydia Dimke reached 1,000 assists at Creighton in the Nov. 6 match vs. Xavier. It took her 26 matches and 88 sets played, third-fastest in team history behind a pair of setters who played in the era when sets were played to 30 points.
Creighton’s Quickest Players To 1,000 Assists (Career)
Any Venue Will Do
Since joining the BIG EAST, Creighton has a .500 record or better at every BIG EAST venue in which it has played.
Keeping It 100
Creighton had a perfect 100 percent sideout percentage in the third set of its October 16 sweep over Seton Hall. The Pirates served 18 times in that set, and CU won the point each time.
For the match, Creighton won the point on 38 of Seton Hall’s 46 serves, a tremendous 86.4 percent.
The match vs. Seton Hall is one of just six times in the last five years (617 sets played) that Creighton has had a 100 percent sideout percentage in a set, and first time since the second set of a 25-8 win over Lipscomb on Sept. 11, 2015. Creighton also did it in the fifth set vs. Villanova on Nov. 20th.
Witt Wins BIG EAST Award, Twice
Brittany Witt was named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on Oct. 10 after helping the Bluejays to road wins at Villanova and at Georgetown. Witt had 33 digs in seven sets and added three aces and a kill in the victories.
Witt then made it back-to-back weeks with the honor after picking up the award again on Oct. 17th. She averaged 4.33 digs and 1.83 assists per set in sweeps over St. John’s and Seton Hall.
Senior CLASS Award Duo
Creighton’s Jess Bird and Lauren Smith are among 30 women’s volleyball student-athletes who excel both on and off the court that were selected as candidates for the 2016 Senior CLASS Award® in collegiate volleyball. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
The 30 candidates will be narrowed to 10 finalists later in the regular season, and those 10 names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one candidate who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition. The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the 2016 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship in December.
Creighton is one of three schools with multiple candidates, joining Minnesota and New Hampshire. The BIG EAST has five candidates (Bird, Smith, Seton Hall’s Tessa Fournier, Xavier’s Abbey Bessler and Marquette’s Meghan Niemann), tying the Big Ten for most of any league.
Smith and Bird are not the first Creighton Volleyball student-athletes to make the Senior CLASS cut in recent seasons, as Melanie Jereb was a candidate last year, Kelli Browning in 2014 and Megan Bober in 2012. Former Creighton men’s soccer goalkeeper Brian Holt won the 2011 Senior CLASS Award on the pitch, while ex-Creighton men’s basketball standout Doug McDermott won the 2014 Senior CLASS Award on the hardwood.
Smith recently made the cut to be among the 10 finalists for the award. You can support her cause by voting once daily for her at http://www.seniorclassaward.com/vote/volleyball_2016/.
Creighton owns 14 3-0 sweeps in 18 BIG EAST matches this season. Creighton’s four straight sweeps from Oct. 8-21 (Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall, DePaul) were its first time with four straight sweeps since Oct. 12-26, 2012.
Creighton then had a school-record stretch of seven straight sweeps snapped on Nov. 20 by Villanova in a 3-2 Bluejay win.
Creighton’s 21 sweeps on the season are a program record, eight more than the 13 achieved last year.
A “Pablo” Picasso
One of the more popular volleyball ranking systems on RichKern.com is the Pablo ranking system, which is best described at http://www.richkern.com/vb/rankings/PabloFAQ.asp.
In this week’s Pablo rankings, Creighton is 10th, the program’s best mark in team history.
By comparison, Creighton was 36th in last year’s Pablo rankings on Selection Sunday and got as high as 27th after its Sweet 16 run in the NCAA’s.
The previous high-water mark since 2011 had been 14th on Sept. 10 & 17, 2012, when CU finished 20th at year’s end.
Friday’s Are For The Jays
Creighton’s been unbeatable in 14 Friday matches this season, winning 42-of-43 sets it has played.
Of those 14 wins, four are against 2015 NCAA Tournament teams (Northern Iowa, TCU, Marquette and Villanova).
In those 14 matches, Creighton has hit a robust .331 while holding foes to .140 hitting. Creighton averages 15.74 kills per set, compared to 10.28 per set against the Jays. On the other six days of the week this season, Creighton has hit .251 and averaged 14.18 kills per set while allowing opponents to hit .187.
Creighton has hit .299 or better in 11 of its last 13 matches played on a Friday, and owns 92 straight wins (on all days of the week) when hitting .300 or better.
Home Sweet Home
Creighton is 34-2 all-time (.944) in regular-season BIG EAST play at D.J. Sokol Arena, falling once each to St. John’s (2013) and Seton Hall (2014).
Since D.J. Sokol Arena opened in 2009, Creighton is 65-7 (.903) all-time in regular-season conference matches in the facility, including 19 straight victories.
Creighton has won all seven meetings with St. John’s since that 2013 upset, and all six encounters versus Seton Hall since dropping the home match in 2014.
Smith Surges Past 1,000 Kills
Lauren Smith registered the 1,000th kill of her career late in the first set of an Oct. 7 at Villanova. She became the 11th player in CU history to reach the milestone, and it came in her 119th career contest.
Smith enters this weekend with 1,127 career kills, seventh-most in Bluejay history.
Creighton’s Quickest Players To 1,000 Kills (Career)
Smith Seeks Passes Blocks, Too
Lauren Smith enters Thursday’s match with 543 career blocks, third-most in Creighton history behind Jessica Houts and Kelli Browning.
Among active players nationally, Smith’s 543 career total blocks rank eighth.
Since the start of last season, Creighton is 39-1 against BIG EAST competition, with the lone loss coming last year at Villanova.
In that contest, Creighton saved six match points before ultimately losing a 19-17 decision in the fifth set. The match featured 37 ties and 15 lead changes.
Creighton won the rematch four weeks later with a 25-18, 25-18, 25-17 dismantling of the Wildcats in the BIG EAST Championship finals. VU never led by more than one point in the rematch.
Creighton is one of nine teams nationally with one or fewer losses against league teams since the start of last year, as seen below, through matches of November 30th:
Creighton’s Lydia Dimke leads the BIG EAST and is 12th nationally with 11.37 assists per set. Should she maintain that mark, it’d be the best in school history since the shift to 25-point sets prior to the 2008 season.
Dimke’s season has also attracted the attention of the experts nationally. She was recently named one of college volleyball’s five best transfers by PrepVolleyball.com, and also one of the nation’s 10 best setters by FloVolleyball.tv.
Each of Creighton’s last 26 matches have been won by the team with more assists, and Creighton has not lost to a BIG EAST team when owning more assists since Nov. 16, 2013 at Seton Hall. Creighton leads the BIG EAST and ranks eighth nationally with 13.59 assists per set this season.
Booth On The Road
Kirsten Bernthal Booth owns 104 career true road wins in her 14 seasons at Creighton, reaching the century mark with a 3-0 win at Georgetown on Oct. 8th.
Booth’s teams are currently 104-70 in true road matches, including an 85-39 mark in league contests. Booth is 29-5 in BIG EAST road matches all-time.
Smith Named Player of the Week
Senior Lauren Smith was named BIG EAST Player of the Week on Sept. 26. It was Smith’s first BIG EAST Player of the Week honor in 2016, and second of her career (Oct. 5, 2015).
A Lincoln, Neb., native, Smith hit .553 while averaging 3.64 points, 3.29 kills and 0.57 blocks per set in a pair of victories.
The preseason All-BIG EAST selection started her week with 10 kills in 17 swings, hitting a season-best .588 in a sweep of a Marquette team that was just outside the top-25. She then had a season-high 13 kills on .524 hitting, adding four blocks in a 3-1 win over DePaul.
Let’s Get It Started
Creighton had its third straight start of 5-0 or better in league play after this fall’s 18-0 league mark. It’s the first time in program history that Creighton has won its first 12 (or more) league matches in a season.
Below is a list of Creighton’s best starts in conference play all-time:
Let’s take a look at how Creighton’s team in 2016 compares to how its first three league champions (2012, 2014, 2015) fared:
Against The BIG EAST
Since the BIG EAST was restructured in 2013, Creighton owns a .500 record or better against each of the other teams currently in the BIG EAST.
The Bluejays finished 2016 with 70 wins against BIG EAST competition (including BIG EAST Championship play) since 2013, 14 more wins than Marquette for most in the league.
Creighton is 7-3 against Seton Hall since joining the BIG EAST, and 61-5 against everyone else, including unbeaten records against Xavier (11-0), DePaul (8-0), Georgetown (8-0) and Providence (6-0).
On A Roll
Creighton won its last six regular-season BIG EAST matches in 2015 and extended that streak to 24 straight with 18 consecutive BIG EAST wins this fall.
That is the longest league win streak of regular-season matches in program history.
Nationally, only four teams have active steaks of 28 or more straight victories against conference foes (including league tournament play), a streak led by Dayton (42).
Creighton - Most Consecutive Regular-Season League?Wins
One reason for Creighton’s recent success has been its efficiency at the service line. The Bluejays have 111 aces and just 118 errors in its last 19 matches over the span of 1,501 serving attempts, putting 92.1 percent of its serves in play.
By comparison, Creighton had 47 aces and 120 service errors in 1099 service attempts in the first 13 matches, keeping just 89.1 percent of its serves in play.
Three newcomers -- Megan Ballenger, Lydia Dimke and Brittany Witt -- have combined for 54 aces and 64 miscues in 676 serves (90.5 percent in play) in the last 19 matches after combining for had 26 aces and 76 errors in 508 serves (85.0 percent in play) during those first 13 contests.
Ace Of Jays
Taryn Kloth has served 284 times over the past 24 matches. In that time, she has 12 aces and just 11 serving errors. Kloth had a streak of 140 straight serves kept in play between Sept. 10 vs. Chattanooga and October 14 vs. St. John’s
For the season, Kloth has 16 service aces and just 14 serving errors in 374 attempts (96.3%).
Service With A Smile
Creighton served up a season-high 12 aces against DePaul on Sept. 26 and countered that with a then-season-low four serving errors.
The +8 ace/error differential against DePaul ranks tied for fifth-greatest since the program’s 1994 restart, and was the best since a +10 (12 aces, 2 errors) disparity at DePaul on Oct. 3, 2014.
Not Middling Around
Creighton middle blockers Lauren Smith and Marysa Wilkinson have been on an absolute terror over the past 23 matches, which coincides with a visit to their hometown of Lincoln, Neb., for the Ameritas Players Challenge.
Smith owns 2.53 kills per set and a .375 hitting percentage in that time, while also adding 0.92 blocks per set.
Wilkinson leads CU with 1.07 blocks per set in that time, while also averaging 2.39 kills per set on .366 hitting.
Creighton is 22-1 in this stretch, with the lone loss being a four-set match at No. 1 Nebraska, while hitting .309 as a team in that span.
Aced That Test
Megan Ballenger went back to serve 28 times on Sept. 25 vs. DePaul, with Creighton winning an astounding 21 of those points.
Ballenger served up six aces in the match -- tied for sixth in CU history for a single match -- and did not have a service error.
She’s one of three players in CU history with six or more aces in a match, joining Kelli Koochi (7 aces at Indiana State on 10/19/01) and JoDe Cieloha (6 aces vs. Northeastern Illinois on 9/23/95).
Ballenger’s six aces were two shy of Carolyn Decker’s single-match record that was set in 2004, and the most by a Bluejay since Michelle Sicner had seven aces vs. McNeese State on Sept. 17, 2011.
Creighton had 12 aces on Sept. 25 vs. DePaul, while also surrendering 10 aces to the Blue Demons.
The 22 combined aces were the most in a Creighton match since Nov. 15, 2002, when Drake had 17 and Creighton had five. That match was the second-to-last before Kirsten Bernthal Booth took over.
The match vs. DePaul also marked the first time since Nov. 4, 2000 that both teams had 10 or more aces in the same match. Creighton and Evansville both had 10 service winners in that 2000 contest.
Wilkinson’s Huge Night
Marysa Wilkinson hit .786 on Sept. 16th in Creighton’s win over Montana State, finishing with 12 kills and one error in 14 swings. She added a career-high eight blocks in the sweep.
The .786 hitting percentage is second-best in program history by a Bluejay with at least 12 kills, trailing only Lauren Smith’s .857 (12-0-14) against Providence in 2014.
Wilkinson was on pace to hit a school-record .923 before her final swing of the match landed inches wide.
Best Attack Percentage (Min. 12 kills)
Challenging Schedules So Far
The NCAA website tracks the nation’s toughest schedules played through Nov. 30th.
Creighton’s opponents were 374-230, and that .619 winning percentage makes it the 10th-toughest nationally.
Last year Creighton faced the nation’s eighth-toughest schedule per the NCAA, with foes going 466-260 (.642) overall.
Ballenger Repeats BIG EAST Honor
Megan Ballenger was named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on both Sept. 12th & 19th. Ballenger, a redshirt freshman from Ankeny, Iowa, averaged 3.30 points, 2.50 kills, 1.30 digs, 0.80 blocks and 0.40 aces per set while helping Creighton to a 2-1 record at the Ameritas Players Challenge.
Ballenger had kills on her first seven swings of a 3-0 sweep over once-beaten Gonzaga, finishing with 13 kills, five digs, four assists, two blocks and a career-high three aces. She also hit a dominating .579 in the match.
Ballenger contributed six kills, four blocks and three digs on .357 hitting in CU’s 3-0 blanking of Montana State in CU’s second match that day.
She closed the weekend with six kills, five digs, two blocks and an ace at No. 1 Nebraska. Ballenger served during a 3-0 run as Creighton rallied from a 21-18 deficit late in the first set of an eventual 25-23 Bluejay victory that snapped NU’s 24-set win streak.
Ankeny - Home of the BIG EAST’s Best Frosh
Creighton’s Jaali Winters and Megan Ballenger were teammates in high school for a bit, and have reunited to win big at the college ranks.
Combined, the duo from Ankeny, Iowa, have won nine of the last 24 BIG EAST Freshman of the Week honors. Winters won six times in the final 11 weeks of 2015, while Ballenger won three of 13 awards this fall.
Home Sweet Home
Creighton went 9-0 at home last season in BIG EAST play, the second time (joining 2012) in the last four years it was unbeaten at home in league play.
Creighton is 65-7 (.903) in regular-season conference home matches at D.J. Sokol Arena all-time, including a 34-2 mark (.944) against BIG EAST competition. St. John’s (in 2013) and Seton Hall (in 2014) own the only victories against CU.
The Bluejays have had a winning record in conference home matches each of the last 12 seasons. That streak that dates back to its days at the Omaha Civic Auditorium, a site that is currently being torn down.
Creighton is one of just 10 schools nationally who have won 23 games or more in each of the last five seasons (including 2016). That group consists of BYU, Creighton, Florida, Florida State, Nebraska, Penn State (22-9 this year), Stanford (21-7 this year), Texas (22-4 this year), Washington and Western Kentucky.
Creighton is also one of 21 teams to have appeared in each of the last five NCAA Tournaments (including 2016). That group features BYU, Colorado State, Creighton, Florida, Florida State, Hawaii, Iowa State, Kansas, Kentucky, Marquette, Michigan State, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Penn State, San Diego, Stanford, Texas, Texas A&M, USC and Washington.
Throw in five straight NCAA Tournament bids to that group of teams with five straight 23-win seasons and the group narrows to nine teams: That group consists of BYU, Creighton, Florida, Florida State, Nebraska, Penn State (22-9 this year), Stanford (21-7 this year), Texas (22-4 this year) and Washington.
RPI On The Move
Creighton improved one spot into an RPI of 17 when the NCAA released the official RPI on Selection Sunday.
CU was 15th on Selection Sunday in 2015 before finishing the season with a school-record year-end RPI of 14.
The Bluejay program has finished with a top-35 RPI in each of the previous four seasons.
Ballenger Wins Weekly BIG EAST Award
Megan Ballenger was named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on Sept. 12th after averaging 1.73 kills, 2.55 digs, 0.45 blocks and 0.27 aces as Creighton went 2-1 at the Bluejay Invitational.
Ballenger’s week opened with a career-high 16 digs in a narrow five-set loss to No. 4 Kansas. She added a team-high two aces, and also finished with eight kills in 29 swings.
In a sweep of a TCU team that was receiving votes in the AVCA poll, Ballenger hit .333 and finished with five kills, eight digs and two blocks.
She closed out her weekend with six kills, four digs, two blocks and an ace on .600 hitting in a 3-0 sweep of defending Southern Conference champion Chattanooga.
Nothing But Time
Creighton has played in 126 matches to last two or more hours until Kirsten Bernthal Booth, but none have been longer than the 2:42 it took to complete its Sept. 3 match at USC. The previous longest contest under Booth was a match vs. Iowa played in St. Louis that took 2:39 to play on Sept. 4, 2010.
That game was the longest length of a match since Nov. 4, 2000, when CU won at Evansville in a match that took 2:45. Scores of that Bluejay win, played under the old side-out scoring system, were 12-15, 15-13, 15-9, 10-15, 16-14. Creighton radio analyst Erin Swanson Russell started that match and finished with five kills and five digs.
Booth is 69-57 in matches to crack to the two-hour mark.
The match vs. USC was the third-longest in school history. In addition to the Nov. 4, 2000 match at Evansville, CU also played a match lasting 2:45 at Indiana State on Oct. 14, 2000.
Coaching Them Up
Lydia Dimke became Creighton’s fifth different starting setter on Opening Day in as many years.
Megan Bober was CU’s Opening Day setter in 2012 vs. UCF before Michelle Sicner took over in the 2013 lid-lifter vs. BYU. In 2014 Maggie Baumert started the opener at setter against Lipscomb, while Kenzie Crawford got the call last fall versus Miami (Ohio).
Bober owns the distinction of being Creighton’s last setter to start consecutive season-openers, having done so all four years from 2009-12.
The revolving door at setter hasn’t hurt the team in that time, as each of those five seasons ended in the NCAA Tournament, and four of them saw Creighton win conference titles. Creighton also won four of those five season-opening matches.
Creighton’s non-conference schedule ranks among the toughest in the nation once again. CU’s first seven opponents all reached the NCAA Tournament, and the slate featured a pair of Final Four teams and the reigning national champion.
All but one (Montana State) of CU’s non-conference foes owned a top-90 RPI last season, and nine of the 12 played in the NCAA’s.
Creighton has three non-conference matches against top-10 competition (preseason No. 1 Nebraska, No. 5 Kansas, No. 7 USC), tying it for second-most nationally, and also plays No. 24 Kentucky, as well as vote-getters Wichita State, Iowa State and TCU. Maryland plays four such teams, while Creighton, North Carolina and Texas A&M meet three top-10 teams each prior to league action.
Creighton is 5-66 all-time against top-25 foes.
Since the start of the 2012 season, 20 of Creighton’s 37 losses have come against ranked teams. In that same period, Creighton is 127-17 against unranked teams. Creighton has won 24 straight home matches over unranked teams.
Against NCAA Tournament Qualifiers
Creighton’s 2015 club beat 11 teams that appeared in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
The schedule figures to be just as daunting in 2016, as CU plays 13 matches against 2015 NCAA Tournament qualifiers.
After going 3-35 against teams coming off NCAA Tournament bids prior to Kirsten Bernthal Booth’s arrival, the Jays are 59-83 since, including a 7-6 mark this fall.
Creighton and USC embarked on one of the longest volleyball rallies in recent memory late in the fourth set on Sept. 3rd.
The rally, which came with CU leading 23-16 in the fourth set, lasted 68 seconds and featured 53 different contacts as the ball crossed the net 16 times in all.
All 12 women on the court touched the ball at least once, and 11 of the 12 women had multiple touches. Creighton’s Lydia Dimke touched the ball 10 different times before the rally ended with a Bluejay attack error.
The complete rally can be viewed in its entirety at http://tinyurl.com/CU-USC-rally.
This is the 14th straight season that Creighton Volleyball had at least one product of Omaha Marian High School on the roster, as Kelsey O’Connell returns and is joined by freshman Brittany Witt.
Each of the previous five years, Creighton’s year-end leader in both digs and aces has been a player that attended Marian.
Interestingly, the Bluejays had never had a volleyball player from Marian between 1994-2002. Here’s a look at Creighton’s pipeline of players from Marian.
The Reviews Are In
Creighton’s Aug. 28 match vs. Iowa State was Creighton’s first it has played using the Challenge Review System, NCAA Volleyball’s new instant replay program.
Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth challenged just one call, an in/out call in the second set with CU trailing 17-12.
Though the replay review confirmed the original line judge call to put Creighton in an 18-12 deficit, CU would rally to score 13 of the next 17 points to win the second set, and eventually claim a four-set victory.
For the season, Booth is 5-13 in challenges (0-3 in/out, 0-0 foot fault, 5-6 ball contacting a player, 0-4 net fault).
Marquette and Creighton are the only BIG EAST schools that use the replay system in their home matches, though it will be use this weekend in Indianapolis.
Set 1 Result = Match Result
Creighton is 240-28 (.896) overall under Kirsten Bernthal Booth when it wins set one. In that same time span, CU is just 48-124 (.279) under Booth when it drops the first set.
Since Aug. 29, 2010, Creighton has gone 70-1 in its last 71 home matches when taking a 1-0 lead, losing only on Sept. 12, 2015 to Pacific.
In 2014 Creighton was 20-2 when winning the first set and 5-7 when dropping the opener. Last year’s team was 21-2 when winning the first set but 6-7 when it fell behind after the first set.
This year’s team is 23-4 when winning the first set, but 3-2 when losing the first set.
Dimke’s Rare 40/20
Purdue transfer Lydia Dimke opened her Creighton career with 41 assists and 20 digs against Wichita State on Aug. 27th.
Not only did that make Dimke the sixth player in program history with a double-double in her debut, but it also made her the sixth player in program history with at least 20 assists and 20 digs in the same match.
Dimke was the first player with a 20 assist/20 dig contest since Michelle Sicner (44A, 21D) on Nov. 29, 2013.
There have been 20 overall 20/20 performances in CU history, including seven each by Melissa Weisensee (1994-97) and Kailey Reyes (1998-2001).
Dimke became the second player in CU’s modern history (since 1994) with a double-double in each of her first two career matches, joining Brittany Coleman in 2003. Coleman had three straight double-doubles to open her career.
Season-Opening No. 18 Was A Program Best
Creighton started the season ranked No. 18 in the AVCA Coaches poll. It was the highest ranking in program history for any week, one spot better than the No. 19 spot it attained twice, including the final poll of 2015.
Being ranked in the preseason poll is no guarantee of future success, however. In the previous eight seasons, only 144-of-200 teams (72 percent) would be in both the preseason and postseason AVCA Top 25 polls.
In the last nine years (including 2016), all but 22 teams named in the preseason AVCA Top 25 poll would go on to reach the NCAA Tournament (90.2 percent).
Creighton dropped four spots to No. 22 in the Aug. 29 AVCA poll, before falling out of the poll on Sept. 5.
Survival of the Fittest
Creighton has won eight matches under Kirsten Bernthal Booth after surviving an opponent’s match point. Three of those comeback wins have come against Wichita State.
On the other hand, Creighton is 288-2 under Booth when it reaches a match point opportunity, falling only when it wasted two match points on Sept. 4, 2010 to Iowa and two other match points on Nov. 1, 2013 in a loss to St. John’s.
Surviving Match Points, Under Booth
2-0 Better Than 0-2
Creighton is 245-9 (.965) all-time when leading a match 2-0, including a 188-3 mark under Kirsten Bernthal Booth. CU’s streak of 94 straight wins when up 2-0, dating to September of 2009, was snapped in the Aug. 27 season-opener vs. Wichita State.
Conversely, the Jays are 12-187 (.060)?all-time when trailing a match 0-2, but did have three comeback victories in 2015. CU also rallied from down 0-2 at Butler on Nov. 8, 2014.
Those 12 comebacks from down 0-2 are listed below.
Taking The Fifth
Creighton is 45-26 in five-set matches under Kirsten Bernthal Booth, including a 1-3 mark this year and a 16-7 home record under Booth in five-setters. That’s impressive since Creighton had never finished a season with a winning record in fifth sets prior to Booth’s arrival.
Creighton has won eight of its last 11 true road matches to go five sets, including wins in 2012 over league rivals Northern Iowa, Wichita State and Missouri State, wins in 2013 at Denver and at Wichita State, wins in 2014 at Butler and at St. John’s, and a win last year at Georgetown in 2015.
It’s also worth noting that Creighton is 10-3 all-time in five-set home matches at D.J. Sokol Arena.
Below is a list of Creighton’s record in five-set matches on a yearly basis:
Total 60-54 381-304
BIG EAST Preseason Poll
For the fourth straight season, Creighton was picked to win the BIG EAST Conference in a preseason poll of league coaches.
CU was a unanimous choice and received 81 points in the poll and all nine possible first-place votes. Marquette was picked second while Xavier, Villanova and Butler rounded out the top half of the poll.
Creighton also had three women named to the 12 member on the BIG EAST’s preseason all-conference team, as Jess Bird, Lauren Smith and Jaali Winters were all honored. Winters was selected as Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year.
Creighton has finished in the spot predicted of them or better in the preseason poll in 12 of the past 14 years (including 2016), including seven years (including 2016) where it’s finished exactly where it was predicted.
Offensive Production Returns
Creighton ranked among the nation’s most potent offensive teams last year. The Bluejays ranked third in the nation in kills, and return 94.7 percent of those terminations.
Creighton also finished second nationally in assists in 2015, fifth in attack attempts and sixth in digs.
In all, Creighton returns 11-of-16 letterwinners to the court from last season, including four starters. Below is a breakdown of the production that is back:
Last Year Summary
Last year’s Creighton team finished 27-9 and won the BIG EAST regular-season and tournament titles. Creighton earned the No. 16 national seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it defeated Coastal Carolina and No. 23 North Carolina, to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time. The Bluejays ended the year with a No. 14 RPI and a No. 19 spot in the final AVCA poll.
Maggie Baumert, Lauren Smith and Jaali Winters were named First Team All-BIG EAST, with Winters also being named a Third-Team All-American by the AVCA, AVCA East Freshman of the Year and BIG EAST Freshman of the Year. Jess Bird was a second-team all-league choice and was named MVP of the BIG EAST Championship.
Defensively, Kate Elman led Creighton in digs and became the school’s all-time leader in the category, and also topped the club in aces.
2015 Season Highlights
The 2015 season was one full of highlights for Creighton. Consider the following...
-Creighton won a pair of NCAA Tournament matches for the first time in any year, advancing to its first Sweet 16.
-Creighton defeated No. 23 North Carolina to win the Chapel Hill sub-Regional, its first true road victory over a ranked team in 32 tries.
-Creighton owned an NCAA RPI of 14 in the year-end official rankings.
-Creighton was voted 19th in the final AVCA coaches poll, matching the program’s best weekly ranking ever (at the time). It was also the fourth straight season (at the time) CU has been ranked in the top-25 during at least one week.
-Creighton won the BIG EAST Conference, the nation’s seventh-best league, by three full games in the standings.
-Creighton won the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship for the second straight year, beating a pair of eventual NCAA Tournament teams in the process.
-Creighton won 22 of its last 24 matches, and was 26-5 after starting the season 1-4.
-Creighton ranked tied for 15th nationally in victories and 20th in road victories last season.
-Creighton was the nation’s only team to play five top-11 teams in pre-conference play. No one else played more than three. Creighton’s non-conference schedule was ranked as the nation’s third-toughest.
-Creighton swept the nation’s No. 10 team, Kentucky, on Sept. 5 on a neutral floor.
-Creighton owned eight top-50 RPI wins last season, which was tied for 10th in the nation.
-Creighton owned 11 wins in 2015 against teams that made the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
-Creighton was honored with the BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year, while Jaali Winters was a unanimous pick as BIG EAST Freshman of the Year.
-Kirsten Bernthal Booth was named East Region Coach of the Year, while Jaali Winters was named AVCA East Region Freshman of the Year.