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VOLLEYBALL

In first-ever D-I meeting, Creighton sweeps UNO; Jays coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth earns 350th win

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In first-ever D-I meeting, Creighton sweeps UNO; Jays coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth earns 350th win

Creighton's Erica Kostelac, center, hits the ball back to UNO.

Creighton volleyball players have taken countless swings at the net during practices in their own gym. They’ve drilled serves, laid out for digs and passed from the back row with precision.

They just haven’t done it with fans in the seats.

And senior setter Madelyn Cole was a little curious how this team — which is blending three new outside hitters and a freshman defensive specialist — would react in its home opener. Plus, the Jays were hosting a motivated UNO squad in a Division I match for the first time.

But if Creighton’s players were anxious, they didn’t show it Friday night at Sokol Arena.

No. 17 Creighton jumped to big leads in both of the first two sets before rallying in the third to earn the sweep over the Mavs, 25-15, 25-15, 25-22.

“It was really good,” Cole said. “Nerves. First home game. Big crowd. I was actually really impressed with how we started off.”

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The Jays (4-2) scored the first four points of the match Friday — two on kills by Erica Kostelac, a transfer from Cincinnati who finished with a match-high 10 kills in her home debut. Redshirt freshman Keeley Davis’ ace, one of five for Creighton in the first set, made it 15-6.

A 6-1 run, featuring two Cole aces, helped Creighton take a commanding 13-5 lead in the second set.

“We’re not used to losing the serve and pass battle that bad,” UNO coach Matt Buttermore said. “That was a big momentum shift early.”

But the Mavs (5-3) made some adjustments at the break. They settled down, Buttermore said. He thought his players started timing their blocks better. They started using their service game to disrupt CU some, too.

The Mavs scored six of the first seven points in the third set. They held a 15-10 edge.

But the Bluejays soon found an extra gear.

They fired up the crowd of 2,134 fans with some rally-extending plays — like when senior Brittany Witt twice hit the floor to keep the ball alive while her teammates scrambled to guide the ball over the net.

The Jays kept encouraging one another during breaks in the action. They capitalized on a few miscues by the Mavs, too. Kostelac’s kill capped a 6-3 Creighton run to end the match.

“Even if the energy wasn’t always there, our confidence was always up,” Kostelac said. “We knew this is our game. This is our gym.”

Creighton and UNO will both play doubleheaders against Drake and No. 12 Washington at Sokol Arena on Saturday. The action begins at 10 a.m.

Notes

Junior Claire Leonard led the Mavs with nine kills. Junior Isabella Sade had just one, a season low. … UNO freshman Sami Clarkson, who’s from Concordia High School, made her season debut at setter midway through the match. … CU coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth earned her 350th career win.

UNO (5-3)...................15 15 22

at Creighton (4-2)........25 25 25

UNO (kills-aces-blocks): Sade 1-3-1, Limback 6-0-3, Blaschko 3-0-0, Marshall 4-0-6, Leonard 9-0-1, Williams 0-1-0, Clarkson 0-0-1, Taylor 0-0-0, Woods 1-0-0. Totals: 24-4-12.

CU: Zimmerman 6-1-0, Kostelac 10-0-2, Cole 3-2-2, Ballenger 4-0-3, Hickman 4-3-1, Witt 0-1-0, Davis 7-1-1. Totals: 34-8-9.

Set assists: UNO 21 (Clarkson 15, Taylor 4, Mountjoy 1, Michalek 1), CU 34 (Cole 25, Witt 4, Zimmerman 2, Kostelac 1, Bressman 1, Nelson 1)

Reporter - Creighton athletics

Jon covers Creighton athletics, the College World Series and more for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @JonNyatawa. Phone: 402-444-6611

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