According to head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth, the Creighton volleyball team has adopted the motto "earned, never given," for this upcoming season, its first in the BIG EAST.
The slogan could be a reaction to the squad's inclusion in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (A.V.C.A.) poll. Following last year's run to the second round of the NCAA tournament, the Bluejays were ranked 25th in the AVCA poll. The ranking marked the first time in program history that Creighton had even received preseason votes.
If the squad wants to accomplish some of their goals, they will certainly have to earn it.
"Elite eight, we want to make it that far," said junior setter Michelle Sicner. "We think we can do it."
Kelli Browning added staying ranked throughout the season and winning the BIG EAST to the list of team objectives.
Accomplishing all three goals would result in a historic season for the program. One of the reasons they believe they are capable of tackling those tasks is the core of players returning, and the chemistry that exists between them. Melanie Jereb and Katie Neisler join Browning and Sicner as the team's four returning starters.
"I think we've got really good offensive firepower. Michelle Sicner's a phenomenal setter. I think a lot of people questioned, you know, since we lost Megan Bober, our big setter, but those shoes are filled with someone very strong," said Bernthal Booth. "Then, I think we've got some new kids that will help out. Our back court and defense, we think, is going to be a strength."
The loss of Bober is a sizeable one. She won the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year and the MVC Tournament Most Valuable Player last season. However, her assumed replacement, Sicner, is no slouch. In her freshman campaign she earned MVC All-Freshman Team honors while playing setter the majority of the time. As a sophomore, she moved to right-side hitter. Her teammates have confidence in her and expect a smooth transition.
"Well, Megan Bober was an awesome player for us, you know, and I think she really started something special here. Michelle Sicner is an awesome setter as well, so we're really excited," said Browning. "As great as Bober was, I really don't think we're going to miss a beat."
Missing a beat and getting off on the wrong foot could prove troublesome for the team that doesn't have a senior on the roster. The Bluejays open the season with a match against 13th-ranked BYU in the Hampton Inn Invitational, which is hosted by Bowling Green. The non-conference slate also includes the following ranked opponents: Kansas (20), UCLA (12), Hawai'i (11) and Wichita State (24).
In order to match last year's 29-4 record, and accomplish their preseason goals, the Bluejays will need to beat some of the nation's top teams. Their coach is trying to pass along a fearless mindset heading into the start of what could be a special season of Bluejay volleyball.
"I always say ‘you work so hard, why don't you want to play the big boys?'" That's got to be the mentality. Go out, have fun," said Berthal Booth. "I hope that any time you see Creighton, if it's 24-24, we're swinging for kills. If we make errors, we make errors, but we're going to go out there and try to win."
Creighton Volleyball Aims to be Elite
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