Buffs Start '09 On Right Foot
GAINESVILLE, Fla.— With just two starters returning from last year's squad, the University of Colorado was able to overcome its youth and errors to defeat Valparaiso University in three sets, 31-29, 25-22, 25-21, at the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational on Friday night.
Colorado Head Coach Liz Kritza won the first match of her CU career and led the Buffs past a team that went 24-7 last season. A huge part of the victory fell in the hands of outside hitters Becah Fogle and Kerra Schroeder. Fogle, a sophomore who only played in four matches in 2008, recorded 17 kills and led the team with 48 swings. Schroeder, a true freshman, added 12 kills.
"Both of our outsides did an excellent job tonight," Kritza said. "For young players that aren't as experienced and to have to play and be so involved in almost every aspect of the game, it's a pretty big load to shoulder. But they were really prepared and they approached the challenge with a lot of enthusiasm."
The Buffs recorded 47 kills and hit .311 while holding the Crusaders to 41 kills and a .232 attack percentage. CU tallied 46 digs compared to VU's 54. The Buffs did out-block VU 4.0 to 3.0, respectively. At the service line, the Buffs were very aggressive and hammered 11 aces, but also recorded 20 errors.
"The good thing about this victory is that this is our first and it really sets the tone for this season," Kritza said. "But there is so much that we can improve and one of those things is our service ace to errors ratio; it was way too high tonight. We have a high number of aces, but this really could have impacted the outcome of the game."
Colorado came out in the first set with four players making their first career starts, but even more unexpected was the fact that redshirt freshman Megan Cyr was in the setter position while senior Kaitlyn Burkett was moved to the right side. The switch momentarily threw off VU but they quickly rallied back.
"The first thing this team had to realize is that our system had to be our strength. That means that players may not be playing in the positions that they are used to and that it may look different out there because of our relative youth," Kritza said. "We need to get as many players experience as early on as possible to prepare for our conference season.
"Kaitlyn and Megan are a pretty lethal combination because they can both set and they can both hit. So being able to have that proved positive tonight. I think that anytime you have a young player like Cyr, it helps to have a mature player like Kaitlyn on the court at the same time."
Burkett, who was named one of three captains earlier in the week, served as the captain of the match but will share duties with junior Schylur Edelman and redshirt sophomore Rosie Steinhaus.
The first set was close until the Crusaders put together a 6-0 run in the middle of the match to take control and a 12-9 lead. Colorado didn't let them out of its sight and stayed within one point thanks to some sharp hitting from Schroeder and Fogle. Fogle was key in the set for the Buffs as she held off a pair of set points for VU and put CU in the lead. The set wasn't going to be decided in the first 25 points but CU had the momentum and held on to win the frame 31-29 off a service ace by Schroeder. Fogle recorded 10 kills in the game while Schroeder recorded six.
Schroeder put the Buffs up 8-5 in the second set with a pair of aces. CU seemed to seize control of the set when it rattled off a 6-2 run to take a 16-10 advantage. Valpo wasn't out of it yet though and slowly got back into the match and tied the score at 21. Schroeder again put the Buffs back in the lead but a kill by VU evened it up at 22. Burkett hammered down a kill and a VU attack error gave the Buffs set point. Burkett finished it off with an ace.
The Crusaders took the first four points in the third set before the Buffs got on the board. CU was able to tie up the set at 17 and took its first lead of the game at 18-17 off a back row attack by Valpo. The Buffs held strong despite VU trying to come back and even tying the set at 21. Steinhaus and Burkett teamed up for the final point of the match as they put up a block on the Valpo attack to win 25-21.
The Buffs will be back in action Saturday night against No. 8/9 Florida at 5 p.m. MST. That match will be televised live on Sun Sports TV. Larry Vettel and Missy Whittemore will call the match.