Best season in Creighton history comes to an end
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- The best season in Creighton Volleyball history came to an end on Saturday night as the 21st-ranked Bluejays fell in four sets at #11 Minnesota in second round action of the NCAA Tournament.
Scores of the match in favor of the Gophers were 20-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-17.
Creighton (29-4) had its program-record 17-match win streak snapped while ending the fall with a record 29 victories.
Creighton didn't back down from its highly-regarded opponent in the first set. Though Minnesota went ahead 13-10, the Jays quickly responded with five of the next six points to take a 15-14 lead. With the score knotted at 18-all, Creighton scored the next four points on kills from Leah McNary, Megan Bober and Melanie Jereb, as well as a double-block by Heather Thorson and Michelle Sicner. Creighton would maintain its hold and eventually close out the frame, 25-20, on a block by Browning and Bober. Jereb had six kills in the first set, while McNary had five kills. Creighton hit .423 and had five stuffs.
Minnesota answered the bell from the start of the second set, scoring the first seven points and surging to a 9-2 lead. The Bluejays responded with four points in a row of their own to force a Hugh McCutcheon timeout at 9-6. The Jays got as close as 11-10 and 13-12, but the Gophers used a 6-1 run to build an insurmountable lead in an eventual 25-17 victory.
The Jays emerged out of the locker room with a plan, and two seniors leaders led the way. Megan Bober sandwiched two kills around a Brooke Boggs ace as the Jays quickly led 4-0. The Gophers quickly tied it at 4-4, but a 7-0 run shortly thereafter that included consecutive Katie Neisler aces made it 16-8 and prompted a second Minnesota timeout. The Gophers didn't quit, using an 8-1 run on Alexandra Palmer's serve to get within 17-16 before a Browning kill stemmed the momentum temporarily. The Gophers would tie the score at 18-all, then take their first lead of the frame at 21-20. Creighton would not lead again, as the Gophers closed it out on a kill from Dana Knudsen at 25-23.
The Gophers were simply too much to handle in the fourth set, bolting to leads of 10-5 and 14-7 in an eventual 25-17 triumph.
McNary and Bober led Creighton with 11 kills, just ahead of Jereb (10). The most decorated player in school history, Bober added 35 assists and eight digs in the final match of her career. Thorson had seven blocks, while Neisler added two aces. The Jays finished the night with 48 kills, four aces, 44 digs and 13 blocks while hitting .233.
Minnesota had five women with double-figure kills. Wittman led the way with 17 kills and was joined in double-figures by Harms (14), Knudsen (11), Tori Dixon (11) and Daly Santana (11). Wittman also paced the Gophers with 12 digs. The Gophers finished with 65 kills, four aces, 47 digs and nine blocks while hitting .314.
The match marked the final contest in the Creighton career for Thorson, Bober, Boggs, Brittany Moon and Natalie Hackbarth. Creighton's 81 wins in the past four years are most by any senior class in program history, and all five women were part of Creighton's first two NCAA Tournament teams that both reached the Round of 32 before falling to Minnesota.
Minnesota (26-7) advances to the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight year and will face Big Ten rival Purdue next Friday in West Lafayette, Ind.
NOTES: Creighton had been 24-0 when winning the first set this season ... Kelli Browning earned her fifth block of the match to trim Creighton's deficit to 19-13 in the second set. It broke Sabrina Apker's (Missouri State) MVC record with her 189 block assist of the season ... Kate Elman's streak of 10 or more digs came to an end at 32 straight, the second-longest streak in school history ... Creighton is now 2-2 all-time in NCAA Tournament play ... Final statistical leaders included Leah McNary (376 kills), Kelli Browning (15 block solos, 189 block assists, 204 total blocks, .370 hitting percentage), Megan Bober (1202 assists) and Kate Elman (31 aces, 617 digs) ... Browning's 189 block assists, 204 total blocks and .370 hitting percentage were all single-season Creighton records, while the team set school records with 379 total blocks, 650 block assists, 29 wins and a .247 hitting percentage while tying the mark with 124 sets played.
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