Friday night, Creighton returned to D.J. Sokol Arena to open the home portion of their BIG EAST schedule against the DePaul Blue Demons with a 3-1 victory.
This was the Bluejays first home match in over a month and first BIG EAST conference home match. Middle blocker Kelli Browning was pleased to be back in front of the Bluejays' home crowd.
"Great to be home, and the crowd helped us tonight at times," Browning said Friday night. "But it was just great to be back home."
Three Jays finished with double digits in kills. Michelle Sicner put together a triple-double with 12 kills, 39 assists and 12 digs.
Creighton started fast, leading most of the opening set. The Blue Demons turned the tide late, tying the set at 23 and outscored CU 4-2, including fighting off two set points, to win 27-25. In the opening set there were five ties and three lead changes. Individual leaders were Kelli Browning with four kills and Michelle Sicner with 11 assists.
Down a set, Creighton got out of the blocks early in set two, building a lead they wouldn't give back, leading by as many as seven points in the set. DePaul, playing from behind, was able to keep contact with the Jays for most of the set before CU closed out the set 25-18. Sicner led the team with four kills and seemed to give the Blue Demons fits no matter where she was on the floor. Offensively, the Bluejays finished with a .324 attack percentage as a team.
The teams exchanged runs early in the third set. Jess Bird's block with the scored tied at seven led to a 3-0 run which was capped off by a Sicner kill. The Bluejays ran away for good in the set, taking a 15-13 lead. Coach Bernthal Booth's team closed on a 10-1 run, winning 25-14. Defensively, CU held DePaul to a -.172 attack percentage, which not coincidentally, was reflected with a lead in team blocks 11-10.
Much like the first three sets, the teams were neck and neck early before separation was seen. Tied at six, it was Sicner again who put her touch on a set, breaking the tie and giving her team the lead, which they wouldn't give up. During the 11-6 run, which allowed the Jays to pull away, Leah McNary had two big kills that devastated the Blue Demons' momentum. Creighton was once again able to close out the set strongly, cruising to a 25-16 set win and the first BIG EAST home victory.
Following Friday's win, the Bluejays set their sights on Marquette. The Golden Eagles entered Sunday's match atop the Big East. In order to knock them from their perch, Coach Berthal Booth wanted to see a solid crowd on hand Sunday.
A good crowd was just what she got. In front of a season-best 2,109 fans at D.J. Sokol Arena, the Bluejays swept the previously unbeaten Marquette on Sunday afternoon. The Bluejays were not sure how many people would come out for the big match, but were pleasantly surprised.
"We thought it might be small, so seeing the arena full was great because we love to play in front of large crowds, plus our great fans," said McNary.
Michelle Sicner had her second triple-double in as many matches with 12 kills, 33 assists and 15 digs.
The match-up also featured a meeting of preseason co-BIG EAST preseason players of the year with the Bluejays' Kelli Browning and Eagles' Elizabeth Koberstein. Both teams did a good job of limiting the other's star players, with both having five kills apiece, but secondary players were the difference in the match.
For a three-set match that lasted an hour-and-26 minutes, both teams were fairly equal. The Jays' swept, winning by scores of 25-21, 25-21 and 25-19. The match saw 26 total ties and 12 lead changes in three sets.
In the opening set, Creighton led by as many as five points. CU's offense was balanced in the opener with Sicner, Browning, Lauren Smith and Leah McNary recording two kills apiece. The critical part of the set occurred when the Jays broke the tie at 17, outscoring Marquette 8-4 the rest of the way.
Like the first, the teams were tight early with six ties in the first 13 points. Marquette led by as many as four before the Bluejays tracked them down. The two had three more ties before a Bird kill put CU up 22-21, a lead they wouldn't surrender. In the first two sets of the match, the Jays attack was .333 to MU's .260.
Creighton fully flexed their muscle in the third and final set hitting .441 and went 17-20 (85%) on side out opportunities with 3.5 team blocks. Sicner added six kills in the clincher, including the match point for CU. She also found her teammates 13 times and recorded four digs. The Jays pulled away after back-and-forth action in the early stages, but after breaking the tie at nine there wasn't any turning back. Up three at 17-14, Lauren Smith had two big blocks and Ashley Jansen served an ace that helped secured the sweep. The win may pay big dividends down the road.
"Marquette is a great team and defeating them puts us back in the BIG EAST title race and is a big RPI win since they're number 15, which will help us down the road, we hope," said Bernthal Booth.
Creighton's record improved to 12-4 and 3-1 in the Big East. Sunday's impressive win could also change the perception the rest of the league has of the Bluejays.
"This sweep, I think, serves notice to the league, but I think it does put the bull's eye on us," said Sicner.
The Jays remain at home through next weekend when they host Big East leader Xavier on Friday night, starting at 7 p.m.. On Sunday, they'll face Butler, which begins at 1 p.m.. The Bulldogs previously defeated the Jays in Indianapolis.
Recapping Creighton's 2-0 Weekend
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