INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The No. 14 Creighton Volleyball team clinched a share of its fourth straight BIG EAST Conference title on Sunday with a hard-fought 3-2 victory at Butler. The Bluejays will have two opportunities to make it four outright titles in a row next weekend on a road trip to Villanova and Georgetown.
Scores of the match in favor of CU were 21-25, 38-36, 25-19, 25-27, 15-11. Creighton’s 124 points in the match are tied for sixth-most in NCAA history for a five-set match since the move to 25-point sets in 2008.
Butler led nearly the entire first set before Creighton took its only lead at 20-19 after three straight points that were capped by a block from Marysa Wilkinson and Taryn Kloth. Butler would answer with a 6-1 surge to end the set and take a 1-0 lead on CU.
The second set was, simply put, one of the most competitive in program history. The frame featured 29 ties and 13 lead changes before Creighton ultimately prevailed, 38-36. Creighton didn’t win it until its ninth set point chance, but not until saving five Butler chances to take a 2-0 lead in the match. Down 36-35, Wilkinson had a kill to tie the score and consecutive attack errors by the Bulldogs gave CU the victory. The set was the highest scoring set in CU history since the shift to 25-point sets in 2008, surpassing a 34-32 fourth set win over South Dakota on Sept. 20, 2014. Playing for South Dakota that day was Sydney Dimke, the sister of current Bluejay setter Lydia Dimke.
“It was epic,” said Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth. “I don’t think I’ve ever played or coached in one that long. It was awesome. Both teams were playing so clean. It wasn’t a matter of teams making errors. It was both teams stepping up, and that was impressive to see. Both teams had opportunities, but that was the difference in the match because if we go down 0-2 we’re in a world of hurt.”
Creighton used the momentum of the second set to win the third frame, racing to a 20-9 lead to claim a wire-to-wire 25-19 win.
Creighton went ahead 8-4 early in the fourth set, only to see Butler rally to claim a 16-15 lead for its first advantage since 36-35 in the second frame. CU squandered match point chances at 24-23 and 25-24, and the Bulldogs would win a 27-25 set to force a winner-take-all fifth set.
Creighton trailed 6-4 early in the fifth set, only to score the next six points on Brittany Witt‘s serve to take control. Butler saved three match points before the clinching point came via a Jaali Winters kill.
“The match was so back-and-forth, anytime you had an opportunity score a couple points, you had to seize it,” said Booth. “We were fortunate in the fifth game that happened for us. Brittany came out of the timeout to hit a serve that fell in on the baseline, and had that gone differently, things could have changed quickly.”
Kloth had season-highs with 19 kills and five blocks, hitting .395 while adding five digs. Winters (16 kills, 16 digs) and Dimke (61 assists, 18 digs) provided double-doubles, and Wilkinson (14) and Megan Ballenger (13) also had double-figure kills. Witt led the defense with 24 digs.
Creighton had 76 kills, seven aces, 80 digs, 10 blocks and hit .283 for the day.
Butler was led by 17 kills and 17 digs by Anna Logan, while Bri Lilly added 16 kills on .448 hitting. Also posting double-doubles were Makayla Ferguson (60 assists, 12 digs) and Whitney Beck (15 kills, 17 digs). BU had 72 kills, five aces, 79 digs and nine blocks on .238 hitting.
Creighton next plays at Villanova next Friday at 6 pm Central.
“We’re thrilled to have at least a share of the BIG EAST title,” said Booth. “It’s been a goal for the team, but we want to earn it outright and just as important, we want to put ourselves in a position with the opportunity to host in the NCAA Tournament. Each of these games are critical for that to happen.”