Outside hitter Natalie Hackbarth hadn’t yet composed her blog about Creighton’s final regular-season volleyball matches, but there’s plenty to write about.
The Bluejays (24-3, 15-1) have clinched a share of the Missouri Valley title, and they’ll try to claim the crown outright when they travel to Wichita State (19-7, 12-4) on Friday and Missouri State (15-13, 9-7) on Saturday. Both matches are at 7 p.m.
“It’s a big weekend,” Hackbarth said. “We’re already going into the conference tournament as the first seed, but we’d like to close out the regular season as the conference champions as well. That’s why this weekend is as important as the last.”
It’s one of CU’s toughest trips. The Jays are 5-13 in Wichita and have lost its past three in Springfield. Both teams draw big crowds.
Hackbarth, from Algona, Iowa, said strong fundamentals and an outstanding defense have carried the No. 23 Bluejays to 12 straight victories. Just as important this weekend will be focusing on their own game.
“Coach says all the time, when we play our game, we are a great team,” she said.
Hackbarth, after losing her spot as a starter, has had to focus this season on contributing in other ways. She’s continued to write a blog she started last year, giving fans an inside look at the team, and brings the comic relief, coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said. She likes keeping the mood light, especially when things get too intense in a match.
“Although Natalie hasn’t played in a lot of matches this fall, she has been a huge contributor during practice as she is the leader of the scout side. She and her scout side teammates often beat our starting side in drills and there is no doubt in my mind Natalie and the other players who spend a lot of their time on the scout side are the unsung heroes of this team,” Bernthal Booth said.
An injury also has kept Hackbarth off the court. The cartilage has worn away in one of her knees and she’s been forced to sit out some practices and matches because of swelling or because the pain is too much.
The injury has made it easier to leave the team after three years. She’ll be graduating early with better than a 3.8 GPA in journalism and has already lined up a marketing job.
Having so much success in her final year has made it really special.
“The fact we’re having a great year is just awesome,” she said. “I can’t even put into words that it’s like to be a part of this team.”
» NOTES: Creighton added an outside hitter and setter on signing day. Jess Bird, a 6-footer from Bennington, grew up going to CU matches. She turned down Notre Dame, Northern Iowa, Northwestern, Virginia and Colorado State to sign with CU. Kenzie Crawford, from Grand Rapids, Mich., is the first Michigan native to join the Bluejays since the program restarted in 1994. She’ll likely redshirt as a freshman. ... Papillion-La Vista graduate Chelsey Feekin is averaging 9.85 assists as the Shockers’ setter. She’s second in the nation in hitting percentage at .443. ... Creighton setter Megan Bober was named Missouri Valley Conference scholar-athlete of the week Thursday. Bober has a 3.827 cumulative GPA and averaged 9.29 assists and 2.57 kills in wins against Indiana State and Illinois State last week.
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