The No. 20 Creighton Bluejays hit the road to Dallas for the second straight weekend as to take part in the Southern Methodist University DoubleTree Classic this past weekend. The tournament featured tough competition for the Bluejays in the form of Arkansas State, North Carolina State, and tournament-host SMU.
Creighton came into the tournament looking to improve on a disappointing showing at the Trojan Invitational in Los Angeles where they went 1-2. The Jays opened the Trojan Invitational with a thrilling five-set victory over Kentucky before dropping their next two matches to Northern Iowa and the University of Southern California.
The Bluejays sweep against Arkansas State was their first sweep of the young season, but it was also the first time that they were able to win the first set of a match. The Jays were utterly dominant in the first set. Jaali Winters had seven kills and her teammates chipped in by hitting .323 in the set. Samantha Bohnet also added five digs as the Jays closed out the set on an 18-8 run.
The Bluejays were just as dominant in the second set if not more so. After taking a 13-10 lead, Creighton stretched the lead to 21-10 on Madelyn Cole’s serve. Winters added six more kills in the set to extend her total for the match to 13. Arkansas State only managed 12 kills through the same period of action.
The third set of the match against Arkansas State was one of the more entertaining sets of the tournament. There were 22 ties, seven lead changes and Creighton was remarkably able to save a pair of set points when trailing 24-23 and 25-24. Winters, Taryn Kloth and Megan Ballenger each had four kills during the set to help the Jays win the match.
Just hours after sweeping Arkansas State in the first match, the Jays were back on the court against Atlantic Coast Conference rivals North Carolina State. Led by Senior outside hitter Kloth, the Jays got their second sweep of the season as they beat a tough Wolfpack team 25-19, 25-21, 25-22.
Creighton had 17 kills, including seven from Winters and four from Kloth. It was Kloth’s second kill of the match, which gave the Jays a 9-6 lead, that was the most memorable moment of the match. With the kill, Kloth became just the 14th player in Creighton history to reach 1,000 in her career.
Creighton won their fifth straight set of the tourney 25-19 behind a solid hitting effort. The Jays never trailed in the set thanks to .349 hitting and five kills from Kloth. During the set there were multiple scoring runs of three or more for the Bluejays who eventually took the set on a serving error by the Wolfpack.
Creighton closed out the sweep with a tightly contested third set victory. Freshman Jaela Zimmerman came up huge for the Bluejays with consecutive rejections to ensure that North Carolina State weren’t able to force the match to a fourth set. Zimmerman also had a career-high eight kills and four blocks in the match.
Creighton completed their third sweep of the weekend as they defeated tournament hosts SMU 27-25, 26-24, 25-21 to be crowned champions. Tournament MVP Ballenger tied her career-high with 16 kills to help the Jays survive an extremely tough test from an SMU side that refused to give up at any point in the match.
The Bluejays return to action on Thursday at 7 p.m. when they play host to No. 5 Nebraska (4-1) at the CHI Health Center Omaha. More than 10,000 tickets have already been sold to the highly anticipated match.