MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The No. 7 Minnesota Volleyball team held off a pair of match point opportunities by Creighton in the fourth set to rally and defeat the No. 15 Bluejays on Saturday, Dec. 7 in Second Round of the 2019 NCAA Volleyball Tournament.
Scores of the match in favor of the host Gophers were 25-13, 19-25, 15-25, 26-24, 15-10.
Creighton ends the 2019 season with a 25-6 record, while Minnesota moves on to face No. 10 Florida in the Sweet 16 with a record of 25-5.
The Bluejays led 24-22 in the fourth set and had two chances at securing a third Sweet 16 appearance in the past five seasons before Minnesota embarked on a 4-0 run to steal the set. The fifth set featured seven ties and a pair of lead changes, but Minnesota pulled away with a 7-3 run to close it after the match was knotted at 8-8.
CU senior Brittany Witt finished with a match-high 26 digs, breaking Creighton’s closing her career with 2,079 career digs to break Kate Elman’s mark of 2,054. Freshman Keeley Davis had 18 kills and a career-high 18 digs, making her one of three Bluejays to finish with a double-double. Also with a double-double were sophomore Jaela Zimmerman (17 kills, 13 digs) and senior Madelyn Cole (44 assists, 15 digs). Creighton tallied 59 kills, five aces, 82 digs and 10 blocks on .110 hitting.
Alexis Hart and Adanna Rollins each topped the Golden Gophers with 14 kills, while Kylie Miller had 38 assists and 11 digs. The Gophers hit .141 and had 46 kills, six aces, 71 digs and 15 blocks, including five rejections in the decisive fifth set.
The first set saw Creighton bounce out to an early 8-5 edge, but Minnesota used a 7-1 run to take control of the opening frame. The Gophers went on to take the set by a 25-13 score as the Bluejays hit just .023 with nine kills and eight errors on 23 attempts.
Trailing 7-4 early in the second set, Creighton followed the path laid out by the Gophers as the Bluejays rattled off eight of 10 points to surge ahead 12-9. Witt led the Bluejay charge from the service line as the Omaha native kept Minnesota out of system to force a pair attacking errors to make it 7-7. Knotted at 9-9 moments later, Davis delivered a trio of points from the service line by forcing the Gophers into three straight attack errors. Staked to a 12-9 edge the two teams went back and forth over the next until Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth used a timeout with the Bluejays up 21-19. Her words sparked a 4-0 run by the Bluejays, getting two kills from Zimmerman, one from Cole and a Minnesota ball handling error to even the match.
The momentum of a second set win led to a 4-0 lead early in set number three for the Bluejays and never looked back in the frame. Creighton maintained at least a two-point edge into the latter portion of the set. Holding a 16-12 advantage, Creighton took control with a 4-0 run to sure out to a dominant 20-12 advantage. Davis got things rolling with a cross-court kill, then Cole sizzled an ace to make it 18-12. A block from Davis and Naomi Hickman followed, while Hickman pushed it to 20-12 with her fourth kill of the evening. Creighton went on to claim a 2-1 lead with a 25-15 win in the third set.
Minnesota gathered renewed energy from its crowd in the fourth set to take a 10-7 lead, but the Bluejays matched the intensity and an epic battle ensued. The two teams fought through 12 ties and six lead changes in the set, culminating at 22-22. A kill from Zimmerman gave Creighton a 23-22 lead, then a block from Cole and fellow senior Megan Ballenger gave Creighton a 24-22 lead, forcing Minnesota to use its final timeout. Creighton, however, committed consecutive attack errors, then a Minnesota service ace put the Gophers up 25-24. Minnesota took the set on a block from Stephanie Samedy and Reagan Pittman to force a fifth and decisive frame.
A seesaw final set featured seven ties, with the last one coming at 8-8. Minnesota responded with three straight points to take an 11-8 advantage and closed the match with another 3-0 run to end Creighton’s season on the short end of a 15-10 set.
– Creighton closes the season with a 25-6 mark, dropping to 11-9 all-time in NCAA Tournament action.
– Creighton is now 2-6 all-time in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament, and 2-5 in true road matches.
– Creighton fell to 109-25 over the past four years. The 109 wins by the senior class are tied for seventh-most nationally, and the second-most ever in a four-year span in program history.
– Creighton fell to 2-1 this season in five-set matches, and 57-30 all-time in five-set matches under Kirsten Bernthal Booth.
– Creighton fell to 4-1 all-time in NCAA Tournament matches that go five sets.
– Creighton fell to 371-3 under Kirsten Bernthal Booth when owning a match point, losing for the first time in that situation since a Nov. 1, 2013 loss to St. John’s.
– Creighton had won 68 straight matches when winning the dig battle dating to a loss on Sept. 15, 2017 vs. Wichita State before tonight, when it won the dig battle 82-71.
– Brittany Witt became Creighton’s all-time leader in digs on a point that made it 12-10 in the first set. Witt entered the night needing two digs to surpass her predecessor Kate Elman, who wrapped up her career in 2015 with 2,054 career digs. She ends her career with 2,079 digs.
– Witt had her 27th career match of 20+ digs, after having 26 digs on Saturday.
– Creighton’s 13 points in the first set were its fewest to open any match since being held to 12 points in the first set of a loss to Wichita State on Oct. 24, 2008.
– Creighton had at least one block for the 787th consecutive match.
– Keeley Davis had 10+ digs for the third time in her last four matches after not having more than seven digs in any of CU’s first 27 contests. She had a career-high 18 digs, five more than her previous best of 13 vs. St. John’s on Nov. 29th.
– Keeley Davis had her second double-double of the season, Jaela Zimmerman had her eighth double-double and Madelyn Cole had her team-high 14th double-double of the season. It was Cole’s 45th double-double of her career. Six of Cole’s double-doubles this year have come against top-25 foes, while four of Zimmerman’s have.
– Jaela Zimmerman had her seventh straight match with 10+ kills, the longest streak of her career. Her 17 kills were one shy of her career-high.