Creighton’s Keeley Davis, setting her feet, was getting ready to rise up and form a two-hand defensive wall just above the net when she heard a teammate hollering out.
It was senior Megan Ballenger’s voice. All of the movements that Wichita State relies on to free up its hitters had left Davis in a one-on-one situation. Ballenger screamed to let her know — the one-word message was a plea for Davis, as she jumped for a block, to protect the middle of the court.
Davis did just that. The redshirt freshman stuffed the Wichita State hitter for a block. She actually picked up a couple of those during Thursday’s sweep of the Shockers (3-7), who had trouble all night trying to get the ball down against Creighton’s defense.
“I think people just took really good risks,” Ballenger said of the Jays’ blocking at the net. “A lot of it’s just instinctual. Kind of going for it and taking risks.”
No. 15 Creighton finished the 25-15, 25-17, 25-19 victory with a season-best 11 team blocks. The Jays held Wichita State to a .011 hitting percentage, the lowest mark by a Creighton opponent this year.
It’s been a point of emphasis all season — but particularly this week as the Jays (6-3) prepared for the innumerable looks they’d see from Shockers’ attack.
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Hitters swing from unorthodox windows at times. They switch roles. They mix in clever decoys.
Creighton altered the way it crafted its scouting report during practice, spending less time focusing on rotations so the players could master a plan for each individual hitter.
“One of the things we said in the locker room was that they did a nice job of following scout,” Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said. “It’s a lot of information for them to take in, and I thought they did a good job.”
CU did have to adjust mid-match to the Shockers’ tweaks — like when they ran a play that typically goes to the outside, but decided Thursday to set quickly to the middle. Creighton started smothering that by the middle of the second set.
And there were times, too, when the Jays simply had to react, blending their athleticism with a bit of fearlessness to make big plays.
Ballenger, pairing with a teammate to form a double block, thought she could over-commit some in certain spots. She and Madelyn Cole collaborated for a match-point block to secure the win. And there were the Davis blocks.
“Megan was yelling at me. ‘Dive!’ That really hyped me up,” Davis said. “(I thought), ‘Yeah, OK, I got it.’ That was what made me more excited to get over and push the ball over to their side.”
That aggressive mentality permeated throughout Creighton’s squad Thursday night.
The Jays hope to carry over that attitude — and the momentum —into Saturday’s action, when they host Wyoming at 1 p.m. at Sokol Arena. Wichita State and Wyoming will play here Friday.
Wichita State (3-7)........15 17 19
At Creighton (6-3).........25 25 25
WSU (kills-aces-blocks): Kelly 7-0-3, Anderson 4-0-2, Taflinger 4-0-2, Wright 3-0-6, Ogogor 3-0-2, Uluave 2-0-1, Rohling 1-0-0, Bown 0-1-0. Totals 24-1-16.
CU: Davis 12-1-2, Zimmerman 11-0-0, Kostelac 8-0-2, Ballenger 5-0-8, Hickman 5-0-2, Cole 2-1-5, Nelson 1-0-0. Totals 44-2-19.
Set assists: WSU 24 (Kauling 10, Wuensch 9, Litzau 3, Anderson 1, Bown 1), CU 39 (Cole 35, Witt 3, Ballenger 1).