>> Video Below: See Creighton's game-winning point and a post-match interview with coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth
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For Kirsten Bernthal Booth and her Creighton volleyball squad, this one had been a long time coming.
For the first time since Nov. 21, 2008, and only the fourth time in program history, the Bluejays were able to get the best of their longtime Missouri Valley Conference nemesis Northern Iowa with a 22-25, 25-13, 25-22, 25-18 victory in front of 2,325 Friday night at Sokol Arena.
The loss ended the Panthers' 59-match Valley winning streak, the second longest in conference history and tied for 15th longest in NCAA history.
The Bluejays have had their season ended by UNI at the Valley tournament six of the past seven seasons, and the Panthers held a 40-3 series edge with Creighton.
Despite that history, Booth said her team never felt a need to vindicate itself against the Panthers — UNI had dominated the entire conference in recent years and not just picked on the Bluejays.
“Northern Iowa's a great program,” Booth said. “I respect the fact that a team can play for four years straight and not mentally drop a match.
“The biggest testament is how mentally strong that they are to come show up every night.”
Leah McNary and Melanie Jereb led the Bluejays with 10 kills each, and Kate Elman was credited with 25 of Creighton's 78 digs.
Megan Bober, who finished with eight kills, 14 digs and 35 set assists and had never beaten Northern Iowa, said she thought this year's Bluejay team was better equipped to handle the Panthers.
“We knew that we were able to physically match up with them tonight,” Bober said. “We just had to play good, fundamental volleyball, and we'd be able to come out on top."
The match marked the first time since Sept. 19, 2009, that the Bluejays played an unranked Panther squad. UNI had been ranked the past seven times the teams squared off.
The win improved Creighton to 14-3 on the season and put the Jays in a first-place tie in the Valley with the Panthers at 5-1.
UNI took the opening set 25-22 behind Macy Ubben's five kills, and it looked like the same old Panther team that would get out of a visiting gym with another win.
Creighton trailed the entire set before finally knotting it at 22-22 on a McNary kill.
But after a UNI timeout, the Panthers were able to win the last three points to go up 1-0.
“We knew in the first set that we caused a lot of mistakes,” Bober said. “There were a lot of things on our side of the net that we weren't taking control over. We knew it was easy points that we could clean up and that it was our side.
“We beat ourselves. They didn't beat us the first set.”
Creighton stormed back in the second set to win 25-13, sparked by a 7-0 run served by Bober that gave the Jays a 15-6 lead. Bober had two service aces and a kill during the run.
The Bluejays took a 2-1 lead with a 25-22 third-set win that was assisted by 10 UNI attack errors and three service errors.
The Panthers committed 31 attack errors in the match to Creighton's 13.
The Bluejays never trailed in the final set, winning it 25-18.
Creighton next hosts Bradley Saturday at 5 p.m. at Sokol Arena.
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