A dominant performance from a freshman and a balanced attack helped the Bluejays make a solid impression during their first weekend of conference play and wrap up a record-setting streak of home matches.
The Creighton volleyball team concluded its program-long nine-match home stand with a pair of victories.
The Bluejays defeated Seton Hall on Friday night three sets to one before beating the Villanova Wildcats 25-23, 17-25, 25-19, 25-13 on Sunday afternoon to give the Jays two Big East victories.
The pair of wins also gave Creighton a 6-3 record over nine matches in Omaha from Sept. 11-Sunday.
Freshman outside hitter Jaali Winters led the Jays with 23 kills on 51 swings during the four-set victory over Villanova.
“We have to get Jaali the ball, but at the same time we still have to keep our offense diverse so that Jaali’s not going to get shut down physically, or them blocking her, because they know we’re going to her a lot,” senior setter Maggie Baumert said. “We have to use everybody and I think everyone else does a great job too, but Jaali’s killing it so we try to use her.”
Sunday was the 11th time this season that Winters reached double-digit kills.
The Ankeny, Iowa native started the match strong with 10 kills in the opening set.
Winters’s sixth kill of the afternoon put Creighton on top 17-11, its largest lead in the first game.
The Wildcats saved set-point twice before freshman outside hitter Taryn Kloth notched her first of six kills to give the Jays an early advantage in the match.
After the Bluejays controlled the first set, Villanova set the tone in the second.
The Wildcats’ Alli Loitz served up four-straight points, including two ace serves, to put Villanova ahead 8-3.
Creighton (8-7, 2-0 Big East) pulled within three twice, but the Wildcats took the set 25-17 after a kill from Loitz.
Following a .261 performance in the opening game, the Jays were held to a .029 hitting percentage in the second set. Winters had only three kills on 13 swings to lead the eight-kill showing.
“Our passing fell apart … we made a bunch of hitting errors and then Villanova just put the gas on us and took over,” Booth said.
Creighton never led during the second set.
A newcomer and a veteran helped the Jays pull the momentum back to their own bench in the third. Kloth delivered a kill for the first point after intermission and senior defensive specialist Ashley Jansen’s serving helped Creighton build a 4-0 lead as the Jays never trailed in the third set.
“One of our greatest strengths is the depth of this team,” Booth said. “I think all of them (maybe even more importantly than the coaching staff) trust each other.”
Villanova had a chance to build momentum near the second half of set number three, but Creighton spoiled the Wildcats’ hope.
With the Bluejays leading 19-16, Lauren Carpenter’s attack appeared to land past the back line of play, but the referees motioned that one of Creighton’s blockers tipped the ball, giving the point to the visitors.
Booth and Baumert each received time to talk to the officials about their decision, but no change was made.
After about a two-minute delay, junior middle blocker Lauren Smith stopped the Wildcats in their tracks with a crucial kill to the keep the game from shifting to Villanova’s side of the net.
On set-point, Jansen came up with four digs and Winters put down her 18th kill to put the Jays back ahead overall, 2-1.
Creighton ended Sunday afternoon with its best hitting performance in the final set. The Jays hit .478 on 23 swings with Winters notching her 23rd kill of the day and 200th of the season to propel Creighton to its second Big East victory.
Senior libero Kate Elman totaled four ace serves in the fourth set, including two in the opening five points.
The Bluejays had a season-high nine service aces on Sunday.
Jansen, in her first start of 2015, had 12 digs, three assists, two aces and finished 9-10 on serve receive while playing each set.
Amanda Pedersen-Henry and Claire Crutchfield each had 12 kills to pace the Wildcats.
Friday’s victory over Seton Hall was similar to Sunday’s result.
The Jays pulled off a 12-point win in set one before falling by 11 in the second.
Creighton closed the match with a pair of set wins after the intermission to give the defending Big East champs its first victory of the 2015 conference slate.
Four different Bluejays recorded double-digit kills, including Smith with a match-high 14.