Creighton knocks out Kansas in a second-round stunner

Courtesy Creighton

Creighton advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row after knocking out fifth-seeded Kansas on Friday night.

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Last year, Kansas pulled off the upset of the NCAA volleyball tournament by knocking out top-seeded Southern Cal to advance to the final four. This year, it was the Jayhawks' turn to feel the weight of expectations, and that ended up being their undoing.

The fifth-seeded Jayhawks, who won the Big 12 title for the first time in program history this season, were upset in the NCAA tournament second round Friday by Creighton, 3-2.

The match ended with an amazing, nerve-racking 20-18 fifth set that the Bluejays initially thought they had won at 18-16 on a ball that Kansas hit out. But with Creighton celebrating, the officials conferred and said that the ball had been touched by a Bluejays player, making it 17-17.

That could have really rattled Creighton, but the Bluejays didn't let it happen.

"We did touch it; I'm not going to lie," said Creighton junior setter Lydia Dimke. "We've been saying all year long this team is really mature. So to [have] such a high like 'We just won!' and then get brought back down, we just really stuck together. We knew we were going to win it again."

That's what Creighton did, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the second season in a row. Last year, the Bluejays beat North Carolina on the Tar Heels' home court in the second round.

Creighton was led by sophomore outside hitter Jaali Winters with 23 kills. Big 12 Player of the Year Kelsie Payne led Kansas with 26 kills.

Creighton had lost 3-2 to Kansas in Omaha, Nebraska, on Sept. 8. The Jayhawks had gone 8-0 in five-set matches this season until Friday.

"Hats off to them on a phenomenal season," Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said of the Jayhawks, who finish 27-3. "To some degree, we're playing with house money, and I think the pressure is tough. It was surreal. We made our first Sweet 16 last year, and that was pretty incredible. But this one is even bigger."

Creighton, which went five sets in beating Northern Iowa in the first round, will face No. 12 seed Michigan in the regional semifinals. Also advancing to the Sweet 16 on Friday were No. 3 seed Wisconsin and No. 15 seed Missouri; the other 12 spots in the regional semifinals will be decided Saturday.

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