When the rest of the Big East sees the result of Creighton's volleyball clash with first-place Marquette, the perception of the Bluejays could change from hunted to hunters.
And that's just the way they like it.
Michelle Sicner registered a triple-double (12 kills, 15 digs, 33 set assists) and Leah McNary added 12 kills as Creighton overpowered the Golden Eagles in a 25-21, 25-21, 25-19 sweep in front of 2,109 at Sokol Arena on Sunday.
Savannah Smith and Lauren Smith anchored Creighton's defense, with each recording five blocks, a career-high for Savannah.
Marquette entered the contest with a No. 15 RPI and an 11-4 record, with those four losses coming to teams ranked 13th or higher.
Bluejays coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said her team relishes the challenge of being in the bull's-eye in its first season in the Big East.
“We feel like we have a target on our back, but that's what you want to have happen,” Booth said. “Every team in the Big East is very, very good. They can knock you off on a given night. We have to be ready to go each night we walk out onto the court.”
Creighton (11-4, 3-1) moved into a second-place tie in the conference, a half-game behind Xavier, which scored a weekend win over Butler to improve to 4-1 in the Big East.
CU handed the Musketeers their only conference loss Oct. 5 in Cincinnati.
Booth said the wins against Marquette and Xavier have the Bluejays well-positioned.
“It puts us back in the hunt for the Big East title,” she said, “and that's a huge goal for us this year.”
Creighton frustrated Marquette's offense all match by bottling up outside hitter Autumn Bailey.
Bailey, who has won Big East freshman of the week honors in four of six weeks and was averaging 4.04 kills per set, registered six kills on 24 swings.
“We don't usually talk about just containing one kid, but we did. We did for this match,” Booth said. “We tried to put big hands in front of her consistently, and I thought our blockers did a great job.”
The Bluejays took advantage of four service errors and nine attack errors by Marquette to claim the first set. Creighton jumped to a 10-5 lead only to see the Golden Eagles come back with six straight points to take an 11-10 lead. The score later was knotted at 16-16, but Kelli Browning finished off a 9-5 run with a kill to clinch the set.
CU fell into a 7-3 hole in the second set. But the Bluejays clawed back with an 8-3 run and went ahead 11-10 on back-to-back kills by freshman Jess Bird from Bennington.
After trailing 17-14, Marquette came out of a timeout by scoring six of the next seven points to pull ahead 20-18.
But Creighton was able to finish strong again, outscoring the Golden Eagles 7-1 down the stretch to take the second set.
The Bluejays host another pair of games next weekend, facing Xavier on Friday at 7 p.m. followed by a Sunday matinee with Butler.
Marquette (11-5, 3-1) ............................ 21 21 19
At Creighton (12-4, 3-1) ............................ 25 25 25
MU (kills-aces-blocks): Autumn Bailey 6-0-0, Ellie Rauch 0-0-0, Meghan Niemann 12-0-2, Lindsey Gosh 6-0-2, Jackie Kocken 3-0-5, Elizabeth Koberstein 5-0-2, Nele Barber 10-0-2, Julie Jeziorowski 0-0-0, Rachel Stier 0-0-0, Lauren Hour 0-0-0. Totals 42-0-13.
CU: Ashley Jansen 1-1-0, Kelli Browning 5-0-3, Savannah Smith 1-0-5, Michelle Sicner 12-0-1, Jess Bird 8-0-2, Lauren Smith 8-0-5, Melanie Jereb 1-0-0, Kate Elman 0-1-0, Leah McNary 12-0-1, Lizzy Stivers 0-1-0. Totals 48-3-17.
Set assists: MU 41 (Koberstein 35, Jeziorowski 4, Bailey 2), CU 44 (Sicner 33, Jereb 6, Elman 2, Jansen 1, Browning 1, Bird 1). A: 2,109.