Buffs Tame Wildcats to Earn First Big 12 Win
BOULDER - Sophomore Kerra Schroeder recorded a career-high 24 kills and led the University of Colorado volleyball team to a five-set victory over Kansas State University at the Coors Events Center on Wednesday night, earning CU's first Big 12 win of the season. Set scores were 25-22, 21-25, 14-25, 25-21, 15-10.
The win, which snapped a three-match losing streak, moves the Buffs to 4-5 overall, 1-2 in the Big 12, while K-State is now 7-6 on the season, 2-1 in the conference. This was the first win for Colorado against the Wildcats in three seasons; the last victory came at the CEC on Nov. 1, 2006, also in five sets.
"Every one of these players is thrilled with this victory tonight, but the best thing about these players and staff is that we will be right back at it tomorrow working diligently to be the best possible team we can be this season," coach Liz Kritza said.
Schroeder had career-highs across the board, recording 24 kills and hitting .327 for 25.5 points. She also added 12 digs in the win for her third double-double of the season. Anicia Santos hammered 15 kills and hit a team-high .375, while Nikki Lindow added 11 kills of her own. Richi Bigelow and Rosie Steinhaus each recorded seven kills in the victory.
"Kerra (Boo) and Anicia led the way with points scoring for us tonight and we will look for their leadership as we forge ahead to another tough Big 12 opponent on Saturday against Kansas," Kritza said. "We are starting to figure out where our strengths really lie and starting to learn how to execute a strategy through to completion."
The whole team stepped up in the come from behind victory as CU was down 2-1. They needed to work hard after dropping the third set (25-14) and didn't get out to the best start in the fourth (KSU took a 9-5 lead) in order to position themselves for a fifth set and a chance at the victory. The crowd got into the fourth set and helped propel the Buffs to the 25-21 win.
"What an excellent team effort we had tonight, and the response from the crowd when we were making that comeback in the fourth set helped create such a great positive atmosphere," Kritza said.
The freshmen showed up big for the Buffs in the back row. Megan Beckwith and Elysse Richardson each recorded 17 digs and Hannah Walker added seven. They seemed to get everything that was coming their way at the end of the match as the Buffs recorded 67 total digs in the match.
"It doesn't really matter that they are freshman anymore because they know that they have to step up because no one else is going to do it for them," Santos said. "We rely a lot on them and I think they really have come to know that and they are willing to take on that role."
Lindow and Santos put up good numbers at the net for the Buffs. Lindow had two block solos and four block assists while Santos had a solo block and three block assists. Colorado tied a season-high with 10.0 team blocks in the match. Santos also had a hot hand on the serving line, recording four aces in the match.
Another factor that played into CU's win was that the team was honoring Spencer Nelson. Nelson would have been a sophomore on the CU ski team but passed away this past August. His parents Peter Nelson and Peggy Smith served as honorary coaches for the match.
"Having Spencer's parents joining our program as honorary coaches tonight was very inspirational for our team," Kritza said. "To dedicate our efforts on the court tonight to celebrating a young man's extraordinary life was truly an honor for all our players and coaches to do."
The players also appreciated being able to play in honor of Nelson and used him as inspiration to defeat K-State.
"Every time we were down one of us would say 'Who are we playing for?' and we would get back in there and immediately come back so that was a big impact," Schroeder said.
"It really put fire in our step when we first came out and fueled us throughout the match," Santos added.
The Buffs took a 9-3 lead to start the match. The Wildcats clawed their way back to within three points at 18-15, forcing Kritza to call a timeout. CU sided out with a kill from Schroeder to go back up by four points again. The two teams traded off points until KSU went on a 4-1 run to get within a point (23-22). Santos hammered a kill to give the Buffs set point and Schroeder finished it off with her seventh kill of the set. Both teams hit well in the frame, CU amassing a .371 attack percentage with 18 kills while KSU hit .357 with 14 kills.
The second set started with K-State taking the early lead, but the Buffs came back to tie it up at 7. Once again the Wildcats pulled ahead, this time using an 8-2 run to take a 15-9 lead. Colorado chipped away at the lead using its own 9-4 run to get within one at 19-18. KSU came back with a 3-0 run, taking a 22-18 advantage in the set. Despite three more kills from Schroeder, KSU finished out the set 25-21. Once again the Buffs hit better than KSU in the set, recording a .344 attack percentage compared to .256.
The Wildcats took the first seven points to start the third set, forcing the Buffs to use a timeout early. After another point from KSU, Santos got CU on the board with a kill. The Buffs took a 5-1 run to cut KSU's lead to four at 9-5. The Wildcats struck back and went on a 10-3 run to take a commanding 19-8 advantage in the set. Despite the deficit, CU continued to fight before falling 25-14. K-State held CU to a .108 hitting percentage as the Buffs hit just nine kills on 37 attacks with five errors. The Wildcats hit .375 with 16 kills and just four errors on 32 swings.
K-State got out to a 9-4 lead in the fourth set. The Buffs got hot and went on a 9-4 run to tie the set at 13, including three straight kills from Schroeder which tied the game. A block by Lindow and Steinhaus gave the Buffs their first lead of the set (14-13). CU continued to pull away from the Wildcats by adding another fourth straight points to take an 18-13 lead. KSU cut the lead to two points at 20-18 after a 5-2 run, but CU held on to the lead and finished the set 25-21. Despite the slow start, the Buffs hit a match-high .448 with 16 kills and three errors on 29 attacks. K-State was held to a .175 hitting percentage (14 kills and seven errors on 40 attacks).
"We showed our inexperience at times by losing control of the momentum of the game, but the way that we refocused and charged ahead to overcome a five-point deficit and then to create that momentum that took us through the fifth set was a huge step in the right direction," Kritza said.
CU took the lead at 5-4 in the fifth set and increased it to 9-6. At that point it was the Buffs' set to win and they held strong to take the game, and the match 15-10. They hit .250 and held KSU to .042.
The Buffs will continue their homestand on Saturday, September 25 against Kansas. The match is slated to start at 6:30 p.m. at the CEC.
And don't forget to check out the latest news and highlights with coach Liz Kritza on This Week in Colorado Volleyball, exclusively on BuffsTV at CUBuffs.com/volleyball. New shows air every Tuesday.