Kelli Browning had 18 kills on .593 hitting and a pair of veteran reserves saved the day as Creighton Volleyball moved into sole possession of first place in the BIG EAST Conference with a 3-1 win over Marquette on Friday night.
Scores of the match in favor of Creighton were 17-25, 25-20, 25-15, 25-21. The victory gives the Bluejays (16-7, 9-1 BIG EAST) a regular-season sweep of the Golden Eagles (16-6, 7-3 BIG EAST) and a bit of revenge after MU won the BIG EAST Tournament title in Omaha last November.
Marquette and Creighton were tied 7-7 early in the first set before the Golden Eagles broke through for a 25-17 victory to open the match. Both teams had 13 kills, but CU had eight more attack errors and that proved to be the difference. BIG EAST kills leader Autumn Bailey had five kills and five digs in 10 swings for MU in the opening frame to pace a Golden Eagles offense that hit .323. CU was paced by four kills each from Marysa Wilkinson and Browning.
The momentum of the match swung late in the second set. Marquette tied the score at 18-all on a kill from Meghan Niemann that ended with star Creighton libero Kate Elman crashing into a courtside table. Elman, who became CU’s first player to surpass 1,500 career kills earlier in the set, would leave the match with a right arm injury and did not return. She was sent for X-rays following the match.
Bailey put down a kill for a 19-18 Golden Eagles lead, but CU would answer after a timeout. Leah McNary and Lauren Smith combined for three kills, and surrounded by three MU attack error the Jays advanced to the edge of set point with a 6-0 run. CU would close out the frame on a solo stuff by Smith of Bailey at 25-20. Browning had five kills and two blocks to lead CU, which hit .314 in the set. Michelle Sicner came on with CU up 12-11 in the frame and would set the Bluejay offense the rest of the night to the tune of 27 assists.
Held without a kill in the first set, McNary had eight putaways in the third frame to spearhead a Bluejay attack that crushed 21 kills. CU raced to a 7-1 lead and never trailed again in a 25-15 victory. CU hit .381 in the set while Melanie Jereb had five digs in her first action at any level as a libero.
CU scored the first four points of the fourth set and never relented. MU got within one at 10-8, and CU closed out the 25-21 victory on its fifth match point opportunity. Browning, who hails from the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, had six kills and two blocks in the final frame. Jereb added eight more digs.
For the night, Browning’s 18 kills and .593 hitting led all players, while her five blocks paced the Bluejays. Jess Bird had 11 kills and 12 digs, McNary 11 kills and Smith 10 kills to pace CU’s offense. Sicner had 27 assists while starter Maggie Baumert had 19 assists. Jereb led CU’s defense with a season-best 16 digs while Ashley Jansen tied her season-high with 15 digs. Creighton had 61 kills, two aces, 74 digs and nine blocks on .231 hitting for the evening.
Bailey led MU with 15 kills and added 11 digs, but hit just .128 in 47 swings. Nele Barber had 12 kills and Lindsey Gosh added 10 kills, nine digs and six blocks, hitting a club-best .333. The Golden Eagles had 48 kills, three aces, 61 digs and 12 blocks on .180 hitting overall.
Creighton returns to the court on Sunday at 1 pm when it hosts DePaul.