Creighton Volleyball hit another milestone this week. After knocking off Northern Iowa for a second time this season, the Bluejays entered the AVCA Top 25 poll. They’ve been on the brink of a national ranking all season, and a perfect weekend coupled with losses by St. Mary’s and Miami gave the Bluejays their shot.
“Obviously, we are excited about it,” said senior Heather Thorson. “We have been working hard all year. Our goal is to be up there so that we can get to the NCAA Tournament eventually, so we are still working hard and focusing on the rest of the season.”
Rankings weren’t the only award the Bluejays received this week. Setter Megan Bober was named the MVC Player of the Week with a triple-double performance in both matches against Bradley and UNI. The senior now owns 13 triple-doubles for her career, an accomplishment that is usually rare in the sport of volleyball. Bober was also named the MVC Scholar Athlete of the Week.
Teammate Melanie Jereb was the MVC Freshman of the Week. Jereb had 15 kills and 15 digs in a 3-2 win at three-time defending league champ UNI. Jereb had two kills in the final set, including one on match point that snapped UNI’s 34-match home win streak in Valley play.
Sitting at 22-3 on the season and 13-1 in MVC play, the key now is to keep everything in perspective heading into the final weekend of home matches. The Bluejays host Indiana State and Illinois State. If they score two wins this weekend, Creighton will clinch at least a share of the MVC regular season championship thanks to a two-game lead in MVC play.
“It shows what we are doing in practice is paying off for us,” said Thorson. “It is giving us motivation and help us in the long stretch. Hopefully we win the conference; obviously that is a huge goal on our goal board. But it would be nice to have a bid no matter what.”
History is in favor for the Bluejays with Creighton sweeping the Sycamores each of the last eight Omaha meetings, and also owns six straight home wins over Illinois State, all by a 3-1 margin.
A key to the Bluejays success this season is their blocking. Thorson and her teammates have out-blocked their opponents in 24 of 25 matches this season. In addition, they have done a good job with hitting, having a better percentage in 23 of 25 matches and eliminating errors by having their opponents with more attack errors.
“Right now we have stayed pretty calm and collected in some games where, like against UNI, when we were going into that fifth set after losing the third and fourth set. We have been able to stay together as a team and really pull it together and we need to,” said Thorson.
Maybe Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook was right when he said earlier this week by the end of the season when NCAA Tournament seeds are announced that his Huskers might get sent to Omaha for a Creighton-hosted regional. While that is not likely to happen and is more likely to be the other way around, that says a lot for a rising program to be put into that category.
In all seriousness, this is a great time to look at the Creighton volleyball program to see how head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth has built it over the past decade. Imagine someday that D.J. Sokol Arena could be sold out match after match like a volleyball program 50 miles down the road. With seasons like this, it is hard to not believe it could happen.
“I’m a small town girl,” said Thorson. “When I decided to come here, it was just a huge honor to be able to play for Creighton and be a part of this team. Being here for these past four years and playing tough teams and being part of the NCAA Tournament, every year you get a little taste of something and you want more. So this year hopefully our goals we can fulfill at the end of the season.”
Seniors to be honored
After Saturday’s match against Illinois State, seniors Heather Thorson, Megan Bober, Brooke Boggs and Brittany Moon, along with junior Natalie Hackbarth will be recognized for their contributions to the program in conjunction with their final home match of the season.
Moon was not on the court this season due to a knee injury over the summer, but has been a part of the team the past four seasons. Moon served as a student coach during the season. Hackbarth, though only a junior, is graduating at the end of the year and is not expected to return and will be recognized for her contributions the past three seasons.
- Both of Creighton’s matches will be broadcast on two different channels this weekend. Friday’s match will be on 1180 AM Zone-2 and Saturday’s will be on Mighty 1290 AM.
- Saturday’s match against Illinois State will be on TV in the Omaha metro on Cox Channel 2.
- With two victories this weekend, the Bluejays can earn themselves a quarterfinal bye in the MVC Tournament in a couple of weeks.
- Creighton is 33rd in the RPI heading into this weekend. When NCAA seedings are made, the RPI is looked at more intensely than the AVCA poll.