NORMAL — After 12 straight road matches, Illinois State’s volleyball team returned to Redbird Arena Friday for a contest that turned into a class on risk management.
The Redbirds failed as Creighton schooled them, 20-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-23, in front of 942 witnesses.
ISU didn’t believe playing it safe on its swings was an option and the result was nine more hitting errors than the Bluejays, who have won nine of the last 10 meetings with the Redbirds.
“You have to take some risks or you won’t come out with a win,” said ISU outside hitter Mallory Leggett. “You also have to take smart risks.”
ISU’s 26 hitting errors, some of which were more mental than physical, resulted in a tepid .152 hitting percentage compared to Creighton’s .213.
The Bluejays thus improved to 9-6 overall and 4-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference while ISU fell to 11-6 and 1-3.
Creighton senior Allie Oelke, who came in hitting .160, finished at .348 after spraying the court with 18 kills.
“I think she’s gotten better every year,” Leggett said. “She’s very strong on the outside.”
ISU looked the strongest it has all season while notching 19 kills the first set, but those numbers dwindled to 10, 12 and 14 the final three sets.
After the first set, Creighton never trailed.
“We started playing tentative,” said ISU coach Melissa Myers. “We almost played with a little bit of fear. We’ve got to take risks. We’re not a team that can play tentative like that.”
Creighton was able to prevent Leggett from getting a single kill on 16 swings in the second set. She finished with 15 kills on .153 hitting while Shannon McGlaughlin led ISU with 16 kills on .158 hitting.
“It’s frustrating to play scrappy teams like that,” McGlaughlin said. “You have barely any block at all and you swing hard and they are always right there (for the dig).”
After erasing a 20-15 deficit the fourth set, ISU was right where it wanted to be when Leggett’s ace made it 23-23. Oelke waved off the threat with back-to-back kills.
“She has played well against us every year,” Myers said. “I don’t know that we’ve found a way to block her.”
ISU will try to find a way past Drake (17-2, 3-2) in today’s 7:05 p.m. “Pack the Arena” match.