LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Senior All-American Jaali Winters had 25 kills and 10 digs to help No. 13 Creighton Volleyball fend off a pair of match points and post a season-opening five-set win over No. 5 Kentucky on Friday afternoon in the Trojan Invitational.
Scores of the match in favor of Creighton were 20-25, 25-18, 14-25, 25-21 and 22-20. It was the highest-scoring fifth set in program history, eclipsing the 20 points CU scored in the 2016 NCAA Tournament win over Kansas that sent the Bluejays to the Sweet 16.
Creighton led 10-6 early in the first set before Kentucky turned the tables with an 11-2 run that saw the Bluejays use both timeouts. Despite a commanding 16-7 lead in kills and a 13-8 lead in digs, CU was not able to cash in thanks to eight attack errors and nine serving miscues. Jaali Winters led CU with six kills in the opening frame, while Alexa Roumeliotis and Madelyn Cole each added four digs. Avery Skinner led UK with four kills in the opener.
Creighton used a 7-0 run early in the second set to build a 10-3 lead and never were threatened in taking a 25-18 set two decision. CU hit .444 with 15 swings in 27 swings and held UK to .000 hitting on 34 swings. Megan Ballenger had a hand in four of CU’s five blocks in the set, and a kill from Kari Zumach closed the set.
Kentucky trailed 3-1 early in the third set before scoring the next four points to take the lead for good. The Wildcat block, which had two stuffs through two sets, had five rejections in the third stanza. CU trailed just 15-12 after a block by Cole, but UK responded with the next five points and won a 25-14 inning to go up 2-1 in the match.
After falling behind 12-9 in the fourth set, Creighton used an 8-0 run on the serve of Winters to move ahead 17-12. Kentucky had other ideas, using a 8-1 surge to retake the lead at 21-20. Creighton then scored the final five points of the fourth frame, including four consecutive kills by Winters to give CU a 25-21 victory.
The fifth set was one for the ages, featuring 11 ties and five lead changes. Creighton saved a pair of match points before finally converting on its sixth chance for the 22-20 win. The Bluejays actually fell behind 7-3 before regrouping to tie the score at 9-9. CU gained its first advantage at 12-11 on a kill from Winters, and had opportunities to close out the contest at 14-13, 15-14, 17-16, 18-17 and 20-19 before Winters finally ended the contest with a kill through a block with CU leading 21-20. CU’s rally was all the more impressive considering it had to stave off match points when trailing 16-15 and 19-18, only to sideout each occasion with a kill.
First Team All-American Leah Edmond led Kentucky with 16 kills and added nine digs and five blocks, while Avery Skinner was close behind with 15 kills on .282 hitting. UK had 49 kills, four aces, 63 digs and 12.5 blocks while hitting .188 overall.
In addition to Winters 25 kills and 10 digs, she also added four blocks and two aces. Kloth contributed 17 kills and seven digs, and Ballenger finished with 10 kills and a team-best six blocks. Cole had 53 assists and 13 digs in her Bluejay debut, and Brittany Witt had a team-best 16 digs. Alexa Roumeliotis’s return to her home state was also successful, as the sophomore contributed a career-high 15 digs. CU finished with 66 kills, five aces, 73 digs and 11.0 blocks on .191 hitting.
Scores of the match in favor of UNI were 25-23, 25-22, 25-19. UNI is now 1-0 while Creighton fell to 1-1.
Just as it did earlier in the day in a five-set win over No. 5 Kentucky, Creighton lost the opening set. The teams were tied at 16 before a 6-1 burst from the Panthers provided a cushion. Creighton withstood four set point opportunities by UNI before the Panthers clinched a 25-23 set one victory. Megan Ballenger had six kills to lead CU in the first set, and Karlie Taylor had seven kills, four digs and the only ace of the first set for UNI.
UNI doubled its lead to 2-0, hitting .351 in the second set to win 25-22. The Panthers had leads of 16-11 and 20-14 but had to hold off a late Bluejay charge. CU trailed just 23-22 before consecutive kills by UNI ended the set. Creighton hit .417 in the second set and got six kills from Taryn Kloth, but it wasn’t enough.
Creighton could not contain the Panthers in the third set as UNI completed the sweep with a 25-19 triumph. A 6-1 flurry midway through the set by UNI gave the Panthers a 13-10 lead it would not relinquish.
Ballenger led CU with 13 kills on .435 hitting, and Kloth finished with 11 kills. Madelyn Cole paced CU with 25 assists and Brittany Witt had a team-high 18 digs. Creighton hit .252 and finished with 44 kills, 37 digs and seven blocks. After 23 service errors in the afternoon victory over Kentucky, the Bluejays had just six service miscues in the nightcap, but also did not record any aces.
UNI was led by 18 kills from Taylor, and 12 by Jaydin Seehase. UNI hit .317 and had 46 kills, five aces, 47 digs and nine blocks.
Creighton concludes play at the Trojan Invitational on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Central when it takes on tournament host and 10th-ranked USC.