Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth didn’t mind if the agony lingered with her players after Friday’s three-set loss to St. John’s.
But just for one night.
There’s still plenty more for the Bluejays to accomplish — and that optimism was infused into the atmosphere Sunday as the team gathered to watch the NCAA tournament selection show.
For the first time in three years, Creighton (24-5) will not host first- and second-round NCAA matches. It’s not a top 16 seed.
Instead, it will open its eighth straight NCAA appearance with a showdown against Iowa State (17-11). To advance beyond the first weekend, Creighton would likely have to then defeat No. 7 overall seed Minnesota (23-5), which opens Friday against Fairfield (24-5).
It’s a tough draw, Booth said.
But she’ll be advising her players to avoid thinking about what could have been — or how the Big East tournament semifinal loss to the Red Storm affected their seeding. It’s time to embrace the next challenge.
“We’re over it, and I mean that quite sincerely,” Booth said of Friday’s defeat. “What we want to achieve is still in front of us. We’ve got to be ready to go. I think they’re confident, and believe in what we’re doing. And they’re united as a group.”
And the Jays hope to learn from their recent setback.
Booth indicated that there were more hitting errors and passing miscues than normal in Friday’s loss. Senior libero Brittany Witt thought she and her teammates weren’t as energetic. Senior Megan Ballenger said a defeat on the doorstep of the NCAA tournament serves as a harsh reminder of the consequences for subpar play against quality competition.
“On Friday, I wanted that loss to sting a little bit. I think a little bit of that is good. And it did (sting),” Booth said. “But by Saturday, we had to move on. And I think they did that.”
Iowa State has a similar challenge.
The Cyclones dropped the regular season’s final three matches to finish fourth in the Big 12. After losing to Texas on Saturday, they ended up 2-7 against the 2019 NCAA tournament field.
But Creighton lost an exhibition match to Iowa State in August. CU won the teams’ most recent regular-season meeting in 2018, but that was a four-set battle. Iowa State earned a five-set victory in 2017.
The last time these two programs met in the NCAA tournament was 2010. That match went five sets. It was Creighton’s first NCAA win.
So the Jays know they’ll need to be ready Friday for a 4:30 p.m. start in Minneapolis.
“We just have to move forward from this past weekend, regain our confidence, get better and improve on what we can,” Witt said. “We’re just excited to get back in the gym and continue our season.”
The Jays posted a 7-4 record against this year’s NCAA tournament field. Two other Big East teams also made the 64-team field — Marquette plays Dayton in No. 16 seed Purdue’s pod while St. John’s opens at No. 13 seed Texas A&M.