Creighton volleyball went 3-0 in the UNI Tournament this past weekend, including two wins against top-15 teams. Coming off of two tough road losses against No. 2 Nebraska and No. 20 Baylor, Creighton looked to prove itself and stay ranked within the top 25 for the 41st straight week.
Creighton began the tournament against No.12 Kentucky. In the first set, senior setter Madelyn Cole had 17 assists, leading to 22 kills from the Jays and a first set victory of 25-23. The second set was similar with 14 ties and six lead changes. Creighton led 19-18 in the second set before a Kentucky 7-1 run to end the second.
Senior defensive specialist Brittany Witt opened up the third set with a 7-0 serving run to give the Jays an 11-4 lead, ultimately resulting in a 25-18 third set victory for the Jays. Heading into the fourth set, up 2-1, Creighton looked to build off of their momentum to close out the tournament opener.
In set four, the Bluejays opened up 6-1 with aces by junior middle blocker and right side hitter Naomi Hickman and sophomore outside hitter Jaela Zimmerman and lead the rest of the way winning set four 25-22 en route to a 3-1 victory over Kentucky. Hickman also notched a career high 17 kills on .640. This win marked the third straight season Creighton has knocked off a top-15 Kentucky team.
Creighton looked to keep the win streak alive, playing tournament host UNI the same day. The Panthers began the match by hitting .268 and used six blocks to keep the Bluejays hitting at .075. This allowed UNI to take the first set 25-19. Going into the second set, Creighton looked to battle back against the hosts. A 5-0 opening run by the Panthers in set two gave the Jays some work to do, but a 7-2 run leveled the scores at 7-7 and a 7-1 run behind Witt’s serve gave the Jays a lead of 19-14. Senior middle blocker and right-side hitter Megan Ballenger provided the final kill to end the set 25-22 in favor of the Jays and tied the game 1-1.
The Jays took set three 25-22 with Zimmerman putting up four digs, three kills, one ace and a block. Set four saw a dominant performance by the panthers as they kept Creighton to only eight kills, winning this set 25-18 the game went into a fifth set. In the fifth a kill by junior outside hitter Erica Kostelac and an ace, the first of her college career, by freshman setter Ally Van Eekeren gave Creighton four match points leading to a final set win over the panthers and moving the Jays to 2-0 for the three game tournament.
Creighton entered the match with No. 15 USC 0-7 against the Trojans. USC took the opening set 25-23 with strong offensive showings from both sides. The Jays responded with a strong performance and took the second set 25-23. The third set was closely contested with nine ties between the two teams. With an advantage of 23-18 the Jays looked to be in control when a 5-0 run tied the set 23-23. With a kill by Cole, the Jays took the third set and were up 2-1.
The Bluejays won the tournament with a 3-0 record followed by Kentucky, USC and UNI in that order. Hickman was named most valuable player of the UNI tournament and was joined by teammates Ballenger and Cole on the all-tournament team. Creighton looks to continue this run against Nebraska-Omaha next Friday night at 6 p.m. in their first match of the Bluejay invitational.