CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Creighton won both of its matches on a challenging Friday, upsetting No. 12 Kentucky in the afternoon and surviving a five-set thriller against Northern Iowa later that night.

And the Bluejays (2-2) had a couple new standouts leading the way.

Junior Naomi Hickman recorded a career-high 17 kills in the 25-23, 20-25, 25-18, 25-22 win against the Wildcats (3-2). It was a breakout performance for the middle blocker from Lawrence, Kansas. She’d never recorded double-digit kills at CU before Friday.

Hickman played a key role in the second match, too (10 kills). But it was junior Erica Kostelac who paced the Creighton offense against Northern Iowa.

Kostelac, a Cincinnati transfer who had 12 kills against Kentucky, recorded a season-high 15 kills in CU’s 19-25, 25-22, 25-22, 18-25, 15-10 win over the Panthers (2-2).

The results will undoubtedly serve as a major confidence boost for the Jays, who lost twice during the season’s first weekend. No. 2 Nebraska beat the Jays in four sets and No. 17 Baylor swept them.

But No. 23 Creighton bounced back Friday.

After entering the break even with Kentucky at one game apiece, CU quickly found a way to flip the momentum of the match. The Jays went on a 7-0 run early in the third set. They also jumped to a 6-1 lead in the fourth set — Kentucky eventually pulled within 21-19, but Creighton didn’t relinquish control and secured match point with a block at the net.

Northern Iowa gave Creighton all it could handle, as well.

The Panthers swept the Jays in a similar spot last year. Creighton beat Kentucky in the 2018 season opener, but got handled when it returned to the court a few hours later against UNI.

Northern Iowa did take the first set Friday. But CU used a 7-1 run late in the second set to even things up. The teams went back and forth from there. Creighton won the match’s final three points to clinch the win.

The Jays will return Saturday when they play No. 15 USC (1-2) at 5 p.m.

Kentucky (2-2).........23 25 18 22

Creighton................25 20 25 25

Kentucky (Kills-Aces-Blocks): Lilley (2-0-0), Tharp (0-0-0), Meyer (11-0-0), Edmond (18-1-0), Stumler (15-1-0), Paris (3-0-0), Scheitzach (0-1-0), Curry (0-0-0), Schmaltz (0-0-0), Cooper (4-0-0), Taylor (2-0-0), Goddard (0-0-0).

CU: Davis (12-0-0), Zimmerman (7-1-0), Kostelac (12-0-2), Cole (3-1-0), Ballenger (12-0-0), Hickman (17-1-0), Witt (0-1-0), Nelson (0-0-0), Bressman (2-0-0)

Set Assists: Kentucky 49 (Lilley 47, Tharp, Stumler, 1), CU 59 (Cole 53, Witt, 4, Zimmerman, Ballenger 1)

Creighton (2-2)......19 25 25 11 15

UNI (2-2)..............25 22 22 14 11

Creighton (kills-aces-blocks): Kostelac 14-1-1, Hickman 10-0-0, Davis 9-1-0, Zimmerman 9-2-0, Ballenger 9-2-0, Cole 2-0-0, Bressman 1-0-0 Van Eekeren 0-1-0. Totals: 54-5-1.

UNI: Taylor 26-1-10, Busswitz 17-0-1, Holterhaus 6-0-2, Rotto 4-0-0, Koop 3-0-0, Petersen 0-1-0. Totals: 56-2-3.

Set assists: Creighton 52 (Cole 46, Witt 2, Davis 1, Kostelac 1, Bressman 1, Ballenger 1), UNI 53 (Koop 43, Staack 4, Hedges 3, Petersen 1, Taylor 1, Busswitz 1).

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