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Creighton utilizes strong 4th set to set down DePaul

Marysa Wilkinson’s stellar performance carries the Bluejays to their second win in conference.

On a beautiful afternoon in Omaha, Nebraska, the Creighton Bluejays took on another highly touted team in the DePaul Blue Demons. Creighton, whose lineup is stacked with talent, looked to get their second BIG EAST win in as many games, as DePaul looked to do the same.

From my own personal standpoint I felt as if I learned a lot from my first match on Friday night, but alas I’m still an idiot in the world of volleyball. What follows is a series of thoughts and observations I made throughout the game, set by set, without any editing. What you’re about to read may be a shocking display of idiocy and amateurism but as I continue to learn more about this fantastic game, I’d like to be as transparent as possible about my journey in becoming a passable voice in women’s volleyball.

1st Set

It appears that the Bluejays are targeting no. 4 Lexi Chanos on serves, as she has struggled to return three consecutive serves, allowing Creighton to build an 8-2 lead early on in the first set.

DePaul starting building a comeback off of some spectacular defense and kills by Myah Reed.

Creighton timeout

Lauren Smith destroys a volleyball and gets the offense cooking again. Out of the timeout the Jays scored 4 consecutive points. Myah Reed responds with a kill of her own on a pretty bizarre rally.

Creighton continued to capitalize on their momentum and built a 19-14 lead.

Timeout Depaul

Creighton proceeded to score 5 points with Dimke while allotting just one, won the set on a kill by Jess Bird, 25-15.

2nd Set - Jays lead 1-0

DePaul managed to build a 5-2 lead early on by gaining ground with Creighton errors and off of stellar play from Caitlyn Coffey.

I think I counted 17 ? touches on that ball before an error by DePaul’s Claire Anderson ended the rally.

DePaul built a 3 point lead, 8-5, that evaporated during a monumental momentum swing by Creighton, grabbing the lead for the first time in the set at 9-8, then 10-8, on two errors by DePaul and an Ace by Megan Ballenger.

DePaul went on a run of their own after a timeout, seizing the lead at 12-11 after an Ace by Haley Bueser and an error by Taryn Kloth.

The Jays bounced right back and tied the match after kills by Kloth and Wilkinson.

From then on it was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team gaining more than a two point advantage until DePaul began to pull away in the set at 21-19, which was immediately relinquished on a service error by DePaul’s Maddie Torti.

Lauren Smith would tie the match back up at 21-21, and Creighton would regain the lead at 22-21 on an error by Brittany Maxwell.

Creighton would score coming out of the timeout on a Jaali Winters ace and a Lauren Smith Kill. DePaul would proceed to score three consecutive points to tie it up at 23-all on kills by Jasmine King and Maddie Torti.

Back and forth, back and forth. Creighton arrives at match point, 24-23, only for DePaul to score, forcing match point back to 26. This would continue on for quite some time, the excitement and tension building upon each point, the waning of enthusiasm when a team would get that vaunted point ahead, only to squander it on the next serve, until DePaul finally closed it out and won the set 31-29. It was a beautiful display of volleyball and my eyes could hardly stay within their sockets as I lay witness to this phenomenon.

“Both teams, especially up until the last game, were hitting at such a high clip, I mean, I thought our offense was fine, it was just that we weren’t able to stop their offense.”

Coach Booth

3rd Set - Tied at 1-1

Maddi Torti started things off in a big way for DePaul in the third set, gaining an ace on the opening serve. Unfortunately, she then served it out of bounds on her next serve. So it goes in this sport, apparently.

The Jays built a 4-point lead on excellent play by Winters, Kloth, and Dimke.

DePaul began crawling back, with the help of a few errors by the Jays, including an attack error by the normally solid Ballenger.

“We just knew we had to bounce, I mean, that’s what we do, so coming back from that there’s nothing else to do just compete and play a little bit better than we had in the second set.”

-Megan Ballenger

Much like the second set, when the dust began to settle on the compounding leads, it became a back and forth affair until Jaali Winters decided to take the wheel and drive the Bluejay machine to a 4-point lead at 13-9.

Claire Anderson has been excellent at times for DePaul today and after a kill she performed the Fernando Rodney bow-and-arrow shot towards the Gods. This air of showboating in volleyball is absolutely ruining the sport, and I demand it to stop immediately. There are kids watching, Claire. Show some respect.

The Jays ended up taking a 5 point lead at 22-17 and rolled on from there, with their 24th point coming on an ace from Winters and the match point coming on a kill from Marysa Wilkinson - who was virtually unstoppable all game, hitting .550 with 13 kills and just two errors. Jays win the third set 25-21.

4th Set - Jays up 2-1

The fourth set started with a 3-0 run by DePaul, only to be answered back with three unanswered by the Bluejays. From then on the record spun, round and round, as the teams took turn gaining the lead, then relinquishing it. It was a torrid affair of unmatched equality, with both sides willing to test the earth’s gravity by diving towards the ground in an attempt to salvage a ball in play.

“We knew that DePaul was a good team and we knew we’d have to compete to get this win.”

-Marysa Wilkinson

A Jaali Winters spike reminds me a lot of archival footage of a nuclear weapon test; the mushroom cloud coming to bloom is much like her approach to the ball, the cloud fully encapsulating the sky is like when she strikes the ball, and the completion of the process is the loss of all who lay beneath the explosion.

With Winters and Ballenger rocking and rolling, the Jays defense came to fully realize their place in this game and began blocking all that DePaul could threaten with. The Blue Demons were properly laid to waste, without a moment to fully understand the barrage that was the fourth set.

“Once you start a run like that, you want to make sure that they have to end the run by getting a kill, and so once Megan got past about three serves... you want to make sure she doesn’t miss at that point, because that’s when the team is starting to feel pressure, and what sometimes you see from servers is then they think, “Oh I’ve scored a lot, I can serve harder,” and then they make an error, and I really liked that Megan stuck with what she was doing, kind of put the same tempo serve in over and over again and really disrupted them until they finally earned their way out of it.”

-Coach Booth

Time and time again the Blue Demons would erroneously put the ball out of play, forfeiting a silly point to the Bluejays. Perhaps it was fatigue, both mentally and physically, but it was a thorough dismantling of the Blue Demons in that fourth set. For the first three they were formidable opponents, but in the fourth they were but a statuesque squadron unable to move freely to defend or attack the Bluejay powerhouse.

“Not our cleanest match, but I like that they were able to figure out a way to win, I thought we served really really well today.”

-Coach Booth

With this win the Bluejays move to 8-6 overall and 2-0 in conference. DePaul fell to 7-7 overall and 1-1 in conference. Creighton will go on a two week road trip while the Blue Demons will get three straight at home.