>> Video Below: Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth after the match
* * *
Creighton volleyball coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said her team didn't discuss avenging its only Missouri Valley Conference loss this season heading into Saturday's showdown with Southern Illinois at Sokol Arena.
And after the Salukis won the first set, she wondered how that would weigh on the Bluejays mentally.
But Creighton (20-3, 11-1 Valley) shook off the early jitters, winning 25-27, 25-21, 25-23, 25-18 in front of 1,066 to tie a school record with its eighth straight victory.
“There's no question, I think, that's in their heads,” Booth said of the early-season loss to Southern Illinois. “Sometimes I wonder if that was a negative that they lose that first game and suddenly it's like 'Oh my.' But I really liked their fight.”
Creighton's defense was superb, outblocking the Salukis 19-6.
Kelli Browning had 14 kills and eight blocks to lead the Bluejays while Leah McNary also recorded 14 kills. Megan Bober had seven kills to go along with nine blocks and Heather Thorson also added nine blocks.
“We had a pretty specific blocking formula for this match,” Booth said, “and I thought they did a nice job, and obviously 19 blocks indicated they did.”
“Our blocking was phenomenal tonight,” the sophomore said. “And we really keyed in on their big hitters, and our defense did an awesome job behind us.”
Browning said she and Bober have been working together recently on blocking packages, and the duo has found success.
“We had a great blocking game tonight,” Bober said. “We knew we had to shut down their hitters, especially their pin hitters and their middles.
“Our middles did a good job closing on the block, and we were able to have good setups and shut them down offensively.”
|BLUEJAYS TODAY ON FACEBOOK|
|Click the image above to join the conversation on the Bluejays Today Facebook page.|
Creighton struggled early as Southern Illinois built a 6-1 lead in the first set. But the Bluejays went on a 9-4 run to tie the set at 10-10. The teams traded punches the rest of the set before two kills by Laura Thole won it for the Salukis.
McNary had six kills on 12 swings in the second set to help the Bluejays even the match.
Creighton, which outblocked Southern Illinois 7-1 to take the third set, raced to 5-1 lead en route to winning the fourth set.
“I thought the third game was the difference in the match,” Booth said. “I liked that we pulled that game out.”
The Jays travel to Bradley on Friday before a likely battle for first place at Northern Iowa next Saturday. Creighton stunned the Panthers in Omaha on Oct. 5, ending their 59-match conference winning streak.
Contact the writer: