OMAHA, Neb. (KCAU) — Creighton Volleyball’s 2020 season came to an end on Wednesday in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament as the Bluejays fell in five sets to Morehead State in a battle of conference champions.
Scores of the match in favor of MSU were 22-25, 25-23, 25-23, 14-25, 15-13. With the win, Morehead State (17-1) advances to Thursday’s 2:30 p.m. Second Round match-up vs. No. 8 national seed and sixth-ranked Florida (19-3). Creighton’s season ends with a 12-4 mark.
Creighton won a hard-fought first set that featured 10 ties and six lead changes. The Bluejays trailed 21-20 in the set before a kill from Jaela Zimmerman knotted the score and started a 5-1 run to end the frame. Keeley Davis and Naomi Hickman paired up to block Morehead State star Olivia Lohmeier as CU moved in front 22-21. Lohmeier’s next swing went wide to prompt MSU’s second timeout fo the set. CU moved to set point on a Welty kill and after a MSU sideout, won the first set 25-21 when Welty and Hickman stuffed Lohmeier. Freshman Kiara Reinhardt had four kills and two blocks in her NCAA Tournament debut to pace a Bluejay offense that hit .250. The Eagles hit .125 in the opener and were blocked four times by the Bluejays.
The Bluejays led most of the second set before Morehead State evened the match by sneaking out a 25-23 victory. Creighton looked in control after Keeley Davis had her sixth kill of the frame to put CU ahead 22-20, only to see the Eagles rally with a 5-1 run. CU led 23-22 before the Eagles got kills from McKenzee Wagener and Bridget Bessler to earn a set point chance, then converted that opportunity when CU’s attack went long. Six kills each from Zimmerman and Davis helped Creighton hit .441 in the second set, but MSU hit an impressive .400 as Abby Hulsman delivered six terminations of her own.
Morehead State raced to an 8-4 lead in the opening points of the third frame and would not surrender the lead. The Bluejays used a 5-1 rally to claw within one at 11-10, only to see MSU respond with a 6-1 burst to move ahead 17-11. The Eagles lead reached as large as 20-12 and the Ohio Valley Conference champs fended off a late charge after CU drew within one at 24-23 before a kill from Hulsman closed out MSU’s victory to move ahead 2-1. Creighton hit .086 in the third set and had no answer for Hulsman, who added six additional kills.
The Bluejays never trailed in the fourth set, putting together consecutive points with regularity en route to building a 10-5 lead before a Morehead State timeout. The lead stretched to 19-11 before Jaime Gordon called timeout to regroup at again. Davis and Reinhardt combined for nine kills on 21 errorless swings to carry the Bluejay offense in the fourth frame as CU hit .375 in the victory. Davis had six kills and Ellie Bolton 10 of CU’s 24 digs in the fourth game.
Ally Van Eekeren’s career-high fourth ace helped stake CU to a 4-2 lead early in the fifth set before Morehead State used a 5-1 run of its own to take an 8-6 lead at the midway point of the set that proved to be the difference. Back-to-back MSU attack errors after the timeout tied the match at 8-all. The match was deadlocked at 9-all before a crucial 3-0 spurt by the Eagles put Morehead State ahead 12-9. CU got within one at 13-12 and 14-13 before Lohmeier’s crosscourt winner on match point. It was the OVC Co-Offensive Player of the Year’s fifth kill of the finale.
Zimmerman (18 kills, 10 digs) and Davis (15 kills, 17 digs) both registered double-doubles and freshman libero Ellie Bolton had a match-best 27 digs. Reinhardt had career-highs with 13 kills on .722 hitting, and her .722 hitting tied the best mark in program history for any five set match. Creighton finished with 66 kills, five aces, 72 digs and 11 blocks on .276 hitting.
MSU was led by a career-high 17 kills from Hulsman and 17 more by Lohmeier. The Eagles hit .169 and had 59 kills, 68 digs, five blocks and served seven aces.
NOTES: Creighton was making its 10th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance, all of which have been in the last 11 seasons … This was the first all-time meeting between Creighton and Morehead State … Naomi Hickman made her 101st career start, and 51st consecutive … Creighton has had at least one block in 803 straight matches … Morehead State entered today 17-0 in the first set this season … Morehead State’s second set victory was its first set won in program history in eight tries, and the match victory was its first in three NCAA Tournament trips. MSU’s Olivia Lohmeier had her 30th straight match of 10 or more kills … Keeley Davis had her sixth double-double of the season and eighth of her career … Jaela Zimmerman had her seventh double-double of the season and 15th of her career … Creighton fell to 4-2 all-time in five-set matches in the NCAA Tournament, having also lost in five sets at Minnesota last season … Creighton fell to 11-10 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, and 8-2 in the First Round … Creighton’s streak of five straight seasons with an NCAA Tournament victory was snapped. Ellie Bolton’s 27 digs were one shy of her season-best. Creighton fell to 4-2 in five-set matches this season and 61-32 all-time under Kirsten Bernthal Booth, Ally Van Eekeren’s four aces were the most by a Bluejay in any NCAA Tournament match in program history.