Buffs Fall Short in Five-Set Thriller Vs. #17 ASU
BOULDER— Junior Alexis Austin and senior Taylor Simpson combined for 46 kills to lead the University of Colorado volleyball team in a five-set battle against No. 17 Arizona State, but the Buffs fell just short, losing 3-2 (25-23, 25-23, 18-25, 15-25, 15-13) on Friday night at the Coors Events Center.
“It’s not necessarily the result of the loss; there’s no shame in losing to the No. 17 team in the country,” head coach Liz Kritza said. “However, everybody on the inside of this program expects more.
“Credit to Arizona State. They’re a very good team quite honestly. There’s a reason why they are beating the teams that they are and have beaten some of the top teams in the country.”
The loss was as close as a loss could be at just six points since ASU won the first, second and fifth sets by just two points each. The Buffs won the third and fourth sets by a combined 17 points (seven points in the third and 10 in the fourth).
ASU improved to 12-3 overall and are 2-1 in the Pac-12. CU is now 9-6 overall, 1-2 in the conference. This was also the first loss for CU at the CEC this year as the Buffs are now 7-1 at home.
Simpson led the Buffs with 24 kills, the fourth time this season she has recorded 20 or more kills in a match. She hit .333 with seven errors on 51 attacks and also added six digs and three blocks.
Austin had her best match of the season with 22 kills, eight of those in the third set which helped to turn the tide for the Buffs in the match. She had nine errors on 36 attacks to hit .361. Austin also posted four blocks, one solo and three assists, and picked up five digs in the effort. Austin had been dealing with an injury earlier this year, which limited her play in the nonconference part of CU’s schedule.
“It feels great being back honestly,” Austin said. “The first six weeks I was out really killed me and then when I started playing I got hurt again, so it’s like a constant battle trying not to get hurt every time when I get on the court. But it feels great to be out there. Today was the first day I felt well completely and I was able to compete. So that’s what I am expecting to do every time, just go out there and play.”
“Alexis shows up to play; we know that about her,” Kritza said. “She’ll go out there and do her job, but she would trade her 22 kills tonight for a win.”
The Buffs out-hit ASU .264-.187 with junior Nicole Edelman handing out 44 assists. Freshman Gabby Simpson added 16 assists. CU had 74 kills in the match compared to the Sun Devils’ 53. The Buffs committed 31 attack errors, six more than ASU. CU also out-dug ASU 65-52.
“It’s those first two sets,” Kritza said. “There were a couple errors; we had 10 hitting errors in the first set. That should be ours. It’s about understanding what it takes to execute at the right time and not be wasting points…not be wasting sets.”
Freshman Anna Pfefferle also had a good night for the Buff with 11 kills while hitting .364. She led CU with six block assists and added six digs and three service aces.
Sophomore Cierra Simpson picked up a match-high 14 digs and Gabby Simpson recorded 13 digs.
The Sun Devils were led by Macey Gardner, who recorded 18 kills and hit .289. McKenzie Willey was second for ASU with 13 kills and added 13 digs.
“When we go out on the floor, we have a good plan and we understand what the different matchups can be and we have to see what the matchup actually is,” Kritza said. “Honestly, it's on us to handle the ball on our side and make sure our offense is firing. I think when we have unforced errors early on some frustration sets in, particularly in our younger players. That's just a conscious decision to understand how the game has to be played so that you can get a lead and keep the other team down. If you noticed the difference in how we scored our points between the first two sets and the last three, it's drastically different. Our team has guts, they'll fight. We need to get comfortable being in the driver's seat; we need to be comfortable having a lead and keeping our foot on the gas pedal."
ASU took a 7-3 lead to start the first set, but the Buffs came to even the score at 10-10. CU retook the lead at 13-12 after a Taylor Simpson kill. The two teams exchanged points for the next few plays until the Sun Devils went up 17-15. ASU extended the lead to 19-16, forcing CU to use its first timeout of the match. The Buffs kept firing and got within a point at 24-23, forcing ASU to use a timeout. The Sun Devils took the set 25-23 on the following point.
The second set was very close in the beginning and was tied 10-10 before ASU used a 4-0 run to take a 14-10 lead, causing the Buffs to take a timeout. CU battled back within a point at 18-17, but the Sun Devils answered with two straight points, at which point the Buffs used another timeout. ASU increased its lead to four points at 21-17 and yet again, CU answered with a 6-4 run to get to 24-23, fighting off three set points in the process. The Sun Devils used a timeout and won the set on the following point with a block (25-23).
The Buffs took a 4-1 lead to start the third set and held that three-point lead at 15-12. CU took the next point out of the TV timeout and went up 19-14, forcing ASU to take a timeout. The two sides exchanged the next four points (21-16), but then the Sun Devils recorded a pair of points to get within three at 21-18. This time CU used a timeout and took the next two points off kills by Austin and Taylor Simpson (23-18). The Sun Devils used their final timeout at that point but CU answered with a kill from Pfefferle and finished the game 25-18 after an ASU attack error.
CU took the momentum from the third set into the fourth set, taking a 7-3 lead before ASU called a timeout. The Buffs took the following point with a kill from Gabby Simpson, but the Sun Devils answered with a 4-1 run to get within two points (9-7). CU went back on the attack and increased its lead to six points at 19-13, forcing another ASU timeout. The Sun Devils got the next point off a service error, but the Buffs answered with four straight points to bring the score to 23-14. ASU recorded another kill, but the Buffs went on to finish the set 25-15.
ASU jumped out to a 6-3 lead in the fifth set, but CU came back with two straight points to get within a point at 6-5. The Sun Devils took the following two points, and again the Buffs answered with two more (8-7). CU tied the game up at 9-9, but ASU again retook the lead and went up 13-10. The Buffs used their final timeout and recorded two consecutive points (13-12), and this time the Sun Devils needed to use a timeout. The break didn’t stop the Buffs and they tied the set up at 13-13, but ASU finished the match with the next two points (15-13).
Sunday’s match against No. 14 Arizona will be CU’s pink match. Breast cancer survivors will be recognized during the match and can sign up at CUBuffs.com/pink for free admission. Anyone wearing pink will receive $1 admission and the first 500 fans will receive black and pink drawstring bags. The match is slated for a 2 p.m. start and will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.
“ASU is a great team but I think we really beat ourselves tonight so now we have our eyes on Arizona and we are going after them, and everyone else after,” Edelman said. “We want to win.”