During a timeout late in Creighton’s sweep of Butler Friday, coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth offered up the type of critique-free assessment that she doesn’t often share in the middle of a match.
The Jays (14-3, 7-0 Big East) were flying around defensively, diving for digs and lunging for point-saving one-handed passes. And when they transitioned into their own attack, they opportunistically followed through with their game plan against one of the league’s better blocking teams.
And Booth noticed.
She told the players, rather succinctly, that they were playing well — so keep it up.
“I don’t usually tell them that,” Booth said with a smile.
It wasn’t all perfect, certainly. Booth was quick to point that out after No. 11 Creighton clinched the 25-17, 25-16, 25-16 victory in front of 2,006 at Sokol Arena.
But for the Jays, Friday was the first match since they won a top-15 showdown against league rival Marquette. They spent this past week brushing aside the praise and the hype, insisting to one another that letdowns often follow signature wins and that their next opponent would likely take the court with nothing to lose.
The Bulldogs (7-12, 4-3) did jump ahead 6-5 in the first set, snapping off a couple aces and capitalizing on a couple errant Creighton serves.
But senior Megan Ballenger found a groove, recording four kills over a six-rally stretch. Setter Madelyn Cole started spreading the ball around from there — Ballenger led Creighton with 10 kills on the night but three others had at least eight.
The Jays pulled away midway through both of the first two sets. They jumped to a 12-3 lead in the third set. And they seemed to maintain their edge throughout, displaying the mental balance they’d spent the week working to create.
“I think that’s something we’ve kind of found as a group, this team in particular — our mantra is to be fun and focused,” Ballenger said. “Everybody plays a little bit better when they’re looser and having fun, but also dialed in and focused.”
Butler, which ranked third in the Big East with 2.23 blocks per set coming in, finished with two total team blocks Friday. It ended up with a .106 hitting percentage, the second-lowest by a Creighton opponent in conference play.
Creighton has won nine matches in a row, as well as 30 straight against Big East teams. It will next host Xavier at 1 p.m Sunday.
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Butler (7-12, 4-3)..................17 16 16
At Creighton (14-3, 7-0).........25 25 25
BU (kills-aces-blocks): Robinson 6-1-0, Logan 6-1-1, Davidson 6-0-0, Gregory 3-0-2, Horn 3-0-0, Ramseyer 1-0-0, Sheridan 1-0-0, Schorr 0-1-0. Totals 26-3-3.
CU: Ballenger 10-0-3, Davis 9-0-2, Zimmerman 8-2-2, Kostelac 8-4-1, Hickman 6-0-4, Cole 2-1-1, Van Eekeren 2-0-0, Schmitt 1-0-0, Witt 0-2-0. Totals 46-9-13.
Set assists: BU 24 (Ramseyer 13, Schorr 7, Ziemba 2, LaBue 2), CU 45 (Cole 37, Witt 5, Davis 1, Zimmerman 1, Van Eekeren 1).