The Creighton volleyball team won’t ease into Big East competition this weekend.
The No. 22 Bluejays take on Butler (13-3) at 6 p.m. Friday and then head to Xavier (8-6) for a 3 p.m. match Saturday.
“We’re not opening with easy Big East teams,” coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said. “We’re going to need to be ready to go.”
The rest of the nine-team Big East started league play last weekend, opening with games against their travel partners. Creighton, the most western school, doesn’t have a travel partner, so it had the weekend off.
Booth thought long and hard about finding some other competition, but decided to give the Bluejays a three-day weekend. She’s hoping it will continue to pay dividends down the road.
She had a lot of talks with her players about coming back with great energy Monday.
“I was really proud they understood that and did that on Monday,” she said. “I was excited with their maturity. They were very focused, refreshed and really had a great practice.”
Booth got a chance to take her daughters to the pumpkin patch, but she also spent a lot of time watching volleyball. Not tapes of her squad, but some upper-echelon teams from the Pac-12 and the Big Ten.
That select group is one the Bluejays are fighting to join. Booth said the Bluejays are in the mix.
“I walked away saying, ‘These are really good teams, but I think we can compete with these teams and we have,’ ” Booth said.
Now the Jays have to show they’re ready to compete in the Big East.
Booth doesn’t have the same level of familiarity of those teams as she did in the Missouri Valley, where she estimated she knew about 80 percent of the players. That makes it feel as if she’s preparing for nonconference games. But she figures the rest of the Big East will be in the same boat.
Creighton was picked to win the Big East, but Butler looks to be one of its biggest challengers after sweeping through it’s nonconference schedule with just two losses.
Butler fell in its Big East opener to Xavier but is 8-2 at home, where it will be playing its 10th straight match on Friday. Junior outside hitter Belle Obert leads the Bulldogs with 3.59 kills per set and 1.11 blocks.
Butler sits behind Creighton with 2.91 blocks per set. The Bluejays average 3.04.
“They are a very good blocking team,” Booth said. “Our hitters are going to have to be smart with their attacks.”
Xavier is 3-1 at home, with its only loss to nationally ranked Michigan in its opener. Creighton and Xavier have never met.
Booth is pleased with the way her team has developed heading into league play, especially with the mental toughness the Jays have shown during an extremely challenging nonconference schedule.
“I think they believe in themselves,” she said. “All 13 are striving for the same goal and have to continue to foster that same atmosphere.”