Buffs Battle But Fall to No. 16 Illinois
OMAHA, Neb. — In its first match against a ranked opponent this season, the University of Colorado volleyball team saw a great contest against No. 16 Illinois, but ultimately came up short in a 3-1 loss (25-23, 25-12, 18-25, 25-12) on Saturday morning during the second day of the Creighton Classic.
"After a challenging match last night, this team came out with a renewed purpose to put together an improved performance against a top team," head coach Liz Kritza said. "While we played at a much higher level, we didn't sustain to pull off the upset."
Illinois improved to 7-3 with the win, while the Buffs are now 8-3 overall.
Taylor Simpson led the Buffs with 18 kills in the effort and had a .327 attack percentage with only four errors on 43 swings. Neira Ortiz Ruiz was second for CU with 15 kills and also had a nice hitting percentage at .379, a team-best, with four errors on 29 attacks.
"Taylor is continuing to lead this team both in her play and as a captain, and we look for her to continue as we keep progressing," Kritza said. "Neira is coming up with key points and showing some veteran play out there as well."
Both teams had 54 kills in the match, but the Buffs committed 23 hitting errors on 149 attacks, compared to 20 errors on 142 swings for the Illini. CU hit .208, while UI hit .239.
Jocelynn Birks led UI with 18 kills and hit .289 in the match with five errors on 45 attacks. Ali Stark also recorded double-digit kills with 10 for the Illini.
The stats were very similar for the two teams in more categories. Both had four aces and each team recorded 62 digs, although UI edged out CU in blocks 13.0-8.0. Cierra Simpson tied a match-best with 19 digs for CU and Brandi Donnelly also had 19 digs for the Illini. Taylor Simpson picked up 12 digs for the Buffs to record her fifth double-double of the season. At the net, Anna Pfefferle led CU with four blocks and Katie Staddick was IU's top blocker with eight.
"Playing tough non-conference play is essential for the overall development of the team," Kritza said. "When we have so many young players on the court, these tough matches are important game experience that will prove valuable throughout the season."
The Buffs got out to a slow start in the first set, falling behind 10-4. CU got back within three points at 13-10 and eventually tied the game at 17-17. The Buffs took the lead on the following point with a kill from Taylor Simpson (18-17). After that, the two teams fought back-and-forth until UI took a 22-20 lead. UI took the next point to take a three-point lead at 23-20, forcing the Buffs to use their second timeout of the set. CU posted a pair of blocks to get within one point (23-22) after the break, causing UI to use its final timeout of the set. UI went up 24-22 following the timeout, but CU wasn't finished. Taylor Simpson recorded a kill, but it was the last point CU would get in the frame as UI finished the set on the following point (25-23). The Buffs outhit UI in the set .344-.321, but committed four service errors to UI's one. Each team had five attack errors as well.
The Illini took a 6-0 lead to start the second set, at which point CU used a timeout. UI controlled the set and didn't let the Buffs get much going as the Illini sided out at 76%. UI had an 18-7 advantage when Kritza called CU's second timeout. The Buffs were able to start regaining some ground after the break, but ultimately the deficit was too great and CU fell 25-12. UI hit .206 in the frame and held CU to -.133.
Despite a better start for the Buffs, UI took a 7-4 lead in set three. CU didn't let down and came back to even the score at 13-13. The Buffs put together a 10-1 run, including seven straight points, to take a 22-14 lead. UI took the following two points, but the Buffs answered with a kill from Taylor Simpson and after an attack error by UI, CU had set point at 24-16. The Illini took two straight points, but CU finished the game on the following point with a kill from Ortiz Ruiz (25-18). CU hit .333 in the set and kept UI to a .125 hitting percentage.
The fourth set was another close one. The Illini had an 18-13 lead in the set, but the Buffs rallied back to get within a pair at 20-18. CU continued to fight and fought off an UI set point at 24-20 with a kill from Katelyn Cuff, but the Illini took the following point to take the set (25-21) and the match.
"We didn't come away with the win this morning, and we won't accept anything other than continued progress and successful results," Kritza said.
The Buffs finish the Creighton Classic this evening against Creighton at 6:30 p.m. MT. Live stats and a live stream will be available at GoCreighton.com, although the stream requires a subscription.