After a 2-3 start to their season thus far, the two-time defending Big East champion Creighton volleyball team will return home this weekend to host the Bluejay Invitational.
The three teams Creighton will be competing against are Chattanooga (5-2), TCU (4-1) and No. 4-ranked Kansas (6-0).
The headliner of the event is undoubtedly the Kansas Jayhawks, who the Jays will host in their home-opener at D.J. Sokol Arena on Thursday night at 7 p.m.
Ranked at No. 4-nationally in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, the Jayhawks will be the highest ranked volleyball team to ever play a match at D.J. Sokol Arena.
Creighton started the season with a spot in the polls as well, with a preseason ranking of No. 18 following their first ever Sweet 16 appearance last season. The Jays have since dropped out of the rankings after an underwhelming start to the season.
Since the beginning of last season—which ended with the Jayhawks making a run to the Final Four before losing to eventual champion Nebraska —Kansas has a combined record of 36-3, the best in the NCAA.
Creighton comes into their home-opener riding a 12-game winning streak at home, one win short of the program record. Tying the record will be no easy task, though, as the Jays will have all their hands full against an incredibly deep and talented Kansas team.
Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth is hoping to build a powerhouse program similar to Kansas, and she thinks building off last year’s successes is the best way to do it.
“I think the great thing of making the Sweet 16 last year is that it made us really hungry,” said Booth.
“Now it’s, ‘What do we need to do to make the Elite 8, the Final Four?’ and that expectation is there. That’s how tradition is established, and I think we’re getting there step-by-step.”
Kansas is one of the four teams ranked in the AVCA preseason top 25 poll that are on Creighton’s schedule this fall, along with Kentucky, USC and in-state rival Nebraska.
Booth has historically known for setting up tough non-conference schedules for her teams, and this year is no exception.
“We always try to set up a really rigorous schedule,” said Booth. “We recruit players with the ideas that we’re going to play one of the toughest schedules in the country.”
“Our goal is to host, so we need to be a top-16 seed [in the NCAA Tournament] to make that happen, which means we need to play great teams,” said Booth. “And not only play them, but beat them to have a shot at that.”
The Bluejays will have a great opportunity to get a signature win and bounce back from their early-season struggles if they can shock the Jayhawks.