HEAD COACH KIRSTEN BERNTHAL BOOTH
The winningest coach in program history, Kirsten Bernthal Booth continues to lead the Creighton Volleyball team to unprecedented heights. She’s led the program to a spot in the NCAA Tournament in five straight seasons, including a 2015 Sweet 16 bid and an appearance in the 2016 Elite Eight. Booth is a three-time National Coach of the Year, three-time Conference Coach of the Year and a two-time Regional Coach of the Year. Since inheriting a 3-23 team, Booth has led CU to eight seasons of 20+ wins and 291 victories in 14 seasons. Booth’s teams are equally as proficient off the court while staying active in the community and excelling in the classroom.
Few programs have grown on the national landscape more than Creighton during the past 13 years under the direction of two-time National Coach of the Year Kirsten Bernthal Booth.
Since inheriting a 3-23 team in 2002, Booth has steadily built a program that has appeared in the nation’s Top 25 poll each of the last four years, and five of the last six NCAA Tournaments.
Fresh off a run to the Sweet 16, Booth’s 2016 team looks to win a conference title for the fourth time in five seasons as one of the nation’s emerging programs.
Last season Creighton swept No. 10 Kentucky early in the fall, then completed a second straight sweep of the BIG EAST regular-season and tournament titles. The team earned the No. 16 national seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it beat Coastal Carolina and No. 23 North Carolina to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time. Lauren Smith was named an honorable-mention All-American after leading the league in blocks and hitting percentage, while Jaali Winters set a school record for kills and finished as BIG EAST and AVCA East Region Freshman of the Year before being recognized as a Third Team All-American. Booth was named BIG EAST Coach of the Year, as well as AVCA East Region Coach of the Year, for her efforts.
In 2014 Creighton finished 25-9 while winning BIG EAST regular-season and tournament titles. The Bluejays earned a spot in a third straight NCAA Tournament after becoming the school’s first team in any sport to win a BIG EAST Tournament title. Kelli Browning earned Third Team All-America honors at year’s end from the AVCA to cap a standout career.
Creighton’s 2013 campaign opened with a win over No. 13 BYU en route to a Hampton Inn Invitational title, and CU led the nation in blocks per set. That club was anchored by all-league picks Leah McNary and Browning, reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Booth owns an impressive past, both on and off the court.
Creighton has gone 262-146 while averaging 1,196 fans per home match in Booth’s tenure, compared to a 93-152 mark and 215 fans per match the nine years before her arrival. All of Booth’s teams have qualified for the conference tournament, with nine of the last 10 squads reaching the semifinals.
Booth’s .642 winning percentage and 262 wins are easily the best in Creighton volleyball’s modern history. Booth owns 374 career victories, an average of 23.4 wins per season, when you add in her 112 wins in three years at Kirkwood (Iowa) Community College.
In her first 13 seasons, Booth has coached 24 First Team and 12 Second Team All-Conference picks, while also recruiting and coaching 12 MVC All-Freshman Team honorees. Booth’s teams have won 10 AVCA Team Academic Awards and featured CoSIDA Academic All-Americans Emily Greisch (2006) and Megan Bober (2012).
Booth was named 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year and CaptainU National Coach of the Year after the best season in program history. Creighton finished 29-4 while sweeping the MVC regular-season and tournament titles in a season for the ages. CU went 12-1 at home (9-0 in MVC play) and produced a program-record 17-match win streak that carried into the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Bober was named MVC Player of the Year, while Browning was tabbed as MVC Defensive Player of the Year. Both women were named All-American Honorable Mention by the AVCA. In addition, Creighton landed Melanie Jereb and Kate Elman on the MVC’s All-Freshman Team.
The 2011 season saw the Bluejays claim three First Team All-Valley picks for just the second time in program history, including the program’s first MVC Libero of the Year accolade.
Creighton’s 2010 NCAA Tournament run included an inspiring first-round victory over No. 16 Iowa State, and helped the Bluejays earn votes in the year-ending top-25 poll. The campaign saw the Bluejays rally from a slow start to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference. Creighton reached the MVC Tournament finals for the first time after beating Wichita State in the semifinals, which helped secure a much-deserved at-large bid. Bober was named First Team All-MVC and All-Central Region, going on to earn Honorable Mention All-America accolades.
Add it up, and it quickly becomes evident why Booth was named 2010 National Coach of the Year by Collegiate Volleyball Update.
The at-large berth into the 2010 NCAA Tournament came not long after back-to-back second-place finishes in the Missouri Valley Conference resulted in near-misses to the 2007 and 2008 NCAA Tournaments.
The 2008 Bluejay squad finished in sole possession of second place for the first time in program history after going 15-3 in league play. Playing the most difficult non-conference schedule in program history, Creighton finished 18-9 overall and had the second-best RPI of any team to not receive an NCAA bid.
That club saw Korie Lebeda close her career as Creighton’s all-time assist leader, while Jessica Houts was named MVC Defensive Player of the Year and earned AVCA All-America Honorable Mention accolades. Omaha product Amanda Cvejdlik joined Lebeda and Houts on the All-MVC First Team, while libero Bianca Rivera was a Second Team All-Valley selection.
Creighton’s 2007 team finished 21-10 and tied for second in the MVC with a 14-4 record. The Jays became the first team in history to rally from an 0-2 deficit to win at UNI on September 21, and hosted a record-setting crowd (13,081) at CenturyLink Center Omaha on September 1 vs. Cal Poly. Lebeda set a Creighton record for career assists, Rivera set a record for single-season digs, and Kelly Goc broke season and career marks for hitting percentage. Goc would also become the program’s first All-America Honorable Mention.
Booth’s 2006 team won a then-record 21 matches, picking up in-season tournament titles at Montana State and Middle Tennessee, and reached the MVC Tournament semifinals. They also took a set from eventual national champion Nebraska and picked up three wins over long-time nemesis Illinois State, as well as a victory at Wichita State.
The 2005 campaign was highlighted by the program’s first win at Northern Iowa, a win over Marquette, and the title at the San Diego State Invitational. The Bluejays finished 16-14.
Booth’s 2004 club won a then-record 18 matches while also picking up tournament titles at events hosted by New Mexico and Missouri. Creighton was also the only club in the MVC to beat the regular-season and tourney champ, Wichita State, in 2004.
In 2003, Booth took a team that went 3-23 prior to her arrival and improved that nearly identical squad to a 12-18 mark in her debut season at Creighton. That fall, the Bluejays helped pave the foundation for a promising future by signing five Nebraska products that remains one of the program’s top recruiting classes in history.
Booth has proven to be a popular coach among her players and within the Omaha community, which is a key factor in the team’s record crowds, ranking among the top-50 nationally each of the last 10 seasons.
Another reason that Creighton is a program on the rise is D.J. Sokol Arena inside the Wayne and Eileen Ryan Athletic Center. The on-campus facility opened in 2009 to rave reviews and hosted six volleyball matches involving ranked teams in its inaugural year, including Creighton’s four-set win over No. 25 Wichita State. Creighton is 78-23 in its six seasons at the facility, where it owns a 55-7 mark in conference play.
On the court, Booth was an All-State setter in high school at Lincoln (Neb.) East and Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association MVP in college at Truman State.
Off the court, she earned Academic All-American honors and was named the 1997 Missouri NCAA Woman of the Year.
Prior to coming to Creighton, Booth went a combined 112-41 in three seasons at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. All three of her teams won at least 36 matches. Her 2000 team reached the NJCAA finals before falling to St. Clair College. Her 2001 team placed fourth nationally and her 2002 club won 39 matches and had seven players earn academic all-conference honors. Twice, she was named District Coach of the Year.
In addition to her coaching responsibilities, she served as the school’s human resource coordinator, where she was in charge of staff development and wellness for all faculty and staff at Kirkwood.
Booth served as a volunteer coach with the University of Iowa in the fall of 1997, helping to run drills and scout opponents. The following spring, she served as interim head coach while running practice and doing other assorted administrative tasks. She later earned her master’s degree in higher education administration with an emphasis in athletic administration from Iowa in 2000.
As an undergrad, Booth’s teams at Truman State went 101-54. She ran the offense as the setter and Booth named the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association Freshman of the Year in 1993, and earned All-MIAA accolades her final three seasons as well. She capped off her career in 1996 by earning MIAA Player of the Year honors and setting new school records for assists in a season (1,662) and career (6,077), the latter of which ranked third in NCAA history at the Division II level when she graduated. She was inducted into Truman State’s Athletic Hall of Fame in October, 2011.
She was also a member of the Student Senate at Truman State, where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in communications.
Growing up, Booth excelled in both tennis and volleyball at Lincoln East High School, where she is a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. In tennis, she was a three-time All-American and two-time state champion at No. 1 singles.
Booth and her husband, Erik, reside in Omaha. The couple have three daughters: Reese (11), Hayden (9) and Berkeley (5).