Scores of the match were 20-25, 25-12, 25-19, 25-23, as CU avenged its lone league loss from 2015.
After the match, Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth was pleased with the top-50 RPI road win. “It’s huge,” said Booth. “We’re fighting every day to secure a spot in the tournament and it wouldn’t be a bad loss, but it becomes a great win. It also helps us in the BIG EAST race, and our goal is to be BIG EAST champions. A night like tonight is a really tough match, and it’s one more step forward.”
Just as they did in an upset victory a year ago, Villanova won the first set. The Wildcats hit .265 and forced CU into nine attack errors to take the set. One of the few bright spots in the opening frame was the 1,000th career kill from Lauren Smith to get CU within 21-17. She became the 11th Bluejay to reach that milestone in the process.
Creighton dominated the second set with a 25-12 win to even the score heading to intermission. The Bluejays hit .500 in 28 swings, while also serving up three aces. Megan Ballenger, Taryn Kloth and Jaali Winters each had four kills in the second set as CU spread around 16 kills.
Booth credited the turnaround to the play of her defense. “We challenged our passers to get us in system so we could push our tempo a little bit and create holes. When those holes were there or if a single-block was there, Jaali and Taryn did a nice job of hitting around it.”
The Bluejays rode that momentum through the intermission with a 25-19 victory in the third set to take a 2-1 lead in the match. After three straight points brought VU within two at 18-16, Creighton pulled away for the 25-19 victory. CU hit .419 in the frame and added four blocks, with Kloth supplying six kills.
CU fell behind 7-2 early in the fourth set before rallying. Riding seven more kills from the right arm of Taryn Kloth, CU fought back to take the lead. Villanova pushed CU to the brink at 23-all before consecutive Winters kills closed out the victory.
Kloth led Creighton with 20 kills on .457 hitting, while Winters finished with 13 kills and nine digs, in addition to a career-high four aces. Lydia Dimke had 46 assists, 15 digs and seven kills in the win. Smith finished with nine kills while moving into the top-10 in kills in program history.
“Lauren’s been a mainstay in our program the last five years,” said Booth. “Lauren would be the type to defer to her passers and setters for the success that she’s had, but she’s a phenomenal player who has worked her tail off and to get that many kills, especially as a middle, is pretty incredible.”
Claire Crutchfield led VU with 15 kills and .423 hitting, while Darcy Wolf finished with 11 kills.
Creighton had more kills (64-47), aces (8-6), digs (64-52) and blocks (10-8), in addition to hitting percentage (.329 – .228). Ten of those Bluejay digs came from sophomore Sam Bohnet, a season-high.
“The player that really came out and impacted us in a huge way was Sam tonight, who often gets overlooked,” added Booth. “She played a great game defensively and in serve receive. I thought she really came in and impacted things tonight.”
Creighton returns to action on Saturday at 5 pm Central with a match at Georgetown (6-13, 2-4 BIG EAST).
NOTES: Creighton lost the first set for the first time since Sept. 8 (Kansas), but improved to 2-2 this year when falling behind 1-0 … Each of the previous 18 matches at Jake Nevin Field House had seen the match go to the set one winner … The loss was just Villanova’s second at home in the last two years … Creighton has started 5-0 in league play for the third straight season … Creighton improved to 7-0 in Friday matches this season, winning 21-of-22 sets … Taryn Kloth‘s 20 kills were the second time this year of 20 or more, and three shy of her career-high at USC earlier this fall … Lydia Dimke had 46 assists compared to 39 for VU’s Emma Decker. The duo entered the match leading the league in assists … Creighton has won 82 straight matches when hitting .300 or better.