Risks don’t always lead to rewards for Jays against Huskers, but they keep playing ‘fearless’

“One of the things we talked about coming in was being free to take a lot of risks — and I thought they did,” Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said. “Some of it was fruitful. And other times it wasn’t.”

LINCOLN — Creighton undoubtedly had its share of gaffes and miscues that energized Nebraska’s capacity crowd and kept the momentum squarely on the side of the nation’s second-ranked squad at the Devaney Center Friday night.

The Jays (0-1) had a stretch where they couldn’t handle NU’s serves. They stood flat-footed and watched the ball drop due to miscommunication a couple of times. They aimed some swings at the hands of Husker blockers — but missed, and sent the ball sailing high and long.

There were net violations, ill-timed service errors and discombobulated attacks.

But CU’s players never throttled back.

According to Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth, there’s something to be said about that kind of persistence, even though Nebraska ultimately earned the 25-19, 24-26, 25-17, 25-21 win. It was the Jays’ 19th straight defeat in the series with the Huskers, who’ve never lost to CU.

“One of the things we talked about coming in was being free to take a lot of risks — and I thought they did,” Booth said. “Some of it was fruitful. And other times it wasn’t.”

The Jays seemed to be at their best in Game 2, spreading the ball around, targeting a variety of gaps within NU’s alignment and perhaps showing what this 18th-ranked squad is capable of when it finds some consistency.

Redshirt freshman Keeley Davis, whose 13 kills were the third-most in a CU debut in program history, pounded a swing off the block and tipped another one in for a point midway through the second set. Then Creighton rode sophomore Jaela Zimmerman for a couple kills.

Junior Naomi Hickman guided one home on the back slide. Senior Megan Ballenger thunderously powered a ball into the floor. Freshman Emily Bressman rose up from the back row and landed a kill between two Husker defenders.

“I think we started talking more about what spots were open,” said Zimmerman, who finished with a career-best 12 kills. “At times, we were kind of quiet. … Just that communication was really important for us.”

Nebraska eventually adjusted.

NU entered Friday’s match unsure about how Creighton would line up, according to coach John Cook. He didn’t have an extensive scouting report on CU’s individual attackers, either.

But he said his players began to familiarize themselves with the tendencies of the Jays hitters as the match progressed, making it easier for the Huskers to get positioned defensively. Their back row in particular responded well, routinely splaying itself out across the court and dazzling the 8,450 fans on hand with diving digs and one-handed rally-savers.

CU kept firing away, though. It just wasn’t sharp enough.

Said Cook: “They were playing fearless.”

That’s what Booth hopes to see more of from her team, starting Saturday against No. 20 Baylor. The Jays will play three additional ranked opponents before league play begins.

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