Published Wednesday, April 24, 2013 AT 1:53 AM / Updated at 10:10 AM
Volleyball: Spring season sets the tone for next year
Jacob Padilla Omaha World-Herald

The Creighton volleyball team closed out the spring exhibition season with a bang by knocking off Nebraska.

The Bluejays won a hard-fought match 25-17, 22-25, 27-25, 20-25, 15-13 in Lincoln in their final outing of the spring.

It may have only been an exhibition, but coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said it didn’t feel that way. With a packed house, a radio broadcast and the officials calling it by the book, the match had a prime-time feel.

“It definitely had a fall feel, which I think was good,” Booth said. “We’ve got some kids who haven’t played a lot … and I think that’s great experience for them that I think will pay dividends in the fall.”

Not only did the Jays win, but they did it short-handed. With Megan Bober, Heather Thorson and Natalie Hackbarth moving on from the program and Lizzy Stivers and Melanie Jereb dealing with injuries, senior Brooke Boggs agreed to rejoin the team for the match simply so the Jays would have enough bodies to compete.

“Brooke was very sore the next day because as she said she hadn’t played very much,” Booth said. “She did great … and I think she had a blast too.”

Boggs returned for the game against Nebraska, but the Jays will be without her and the other seniors in the fall.

“I think it’s pretty cool that even though the seniors have left that we still have a strong team,” sophomore outside hitter Leah McNary said. “I think we definitely rely on each other to do well in the spring without the leadership that they brought us last season.”

Among the departed seniors is MVC player of the year and triple-double machine Megan Bober. Bober was the centerpiece of the Jays’ attack at the setter position and will not be easy to replace, but sophomore Michelle Sicner is up for the challenge.

“A major thing was to get a new setter incorporated,” Booth said. “Obviously Michelle has been in the program for two years. We know she’s a great setter. She set a fair amount, but still getting her in rhythm, particularly with our middles, has been a primary focus.”

With Bober handling the setting, Sicner played out of position at hitter for the Jays. However, with Bober’s graduation on the horizon, she split time in practice between hitting and setting during the fall.

“She’s been dying to get back to setting,” Booth said. “Hitting is not something she enjoys nor that she wanted to do. She’s just been waiting for the opportunity to spend all of her time setting … We obviously knew she was going to be setting this year, so we wanted to keep her ready to go, and she’s done a great job.”

McNary, Creighton’s kills leader, said the chemistry has been great with her new setter and the transition is going well.

“I think Michelle is a really good setter,” McNary said. “We’ve connected really great in the spring. Obviously it’s going to take time to get that stuff down but I think it’s been pretty good.”

With the spring season all wrapped up, it’s time for Creighton to look ahead to the Big East and all the advantages and challenges the move presents.

“The great thing about the Big East is the prestige that it brings … Yet all the things that are great about Creighton volleyball will stay the same as far as our fan base, our facility,” Booth said.

Notes:

>> Despite leaving the MVC, Creighton will play in a tournament at Wichita State next season.

>> Middle blockers Lauren Smith and Savannah Smith (no relation) are competing to replace senior Heather Thorson next to reigning MVC defensive player of the year Kellie Browning.

>> Nebraska coach John Cook indicated to Booth that the Jays and Huskers could play again during the 2014 regular season.

>> Providence is the only Big East school without a volleyball program competing in the conference. The Friars’ volleyball team plays in the America East.

About Jacob Padilla

Jacob covers Creighton athletics for The World-Herald as part of the Sports Reporting Fellowship program and is also the assistant sports editor for the Creightonian. He is a sophomore at Creighton and a 2011 graduate for Omaha Creighton Prep. Follow him on Twitter at @JacobPadilla_ or email him at JacobPadilla@creighton.edu.