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Buffs Upset No. 14 Arizona in Three

Oct 5, 2014

BOULDER— For the second straight year, the University of Colorado volleyball team shocked nationally ranked Arizona at the Coors Events Center, blanking the Wildcats 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-23) on Sunday afternoon.

This year, the Wildcats came into Boulder with a No. 14 ranking, while last year they were No. 25. This is just the second loss for UA as they are now 14-2 overall, 3-1 in Pac-12 play.

The Buffs improved to 10-6 overall, 2-2 in the conference, with their first win against a ranked opponent this season. This win comes in the middle of a brutal stretch that has the Buffs playing six-straight contest against ranked teams.  

“Every team we play here on out with the rest of these ranked opponents, especially on the road, they’re all going to have big guns,” head coach Liz Kritza said. “Everybody does in this league, and that’s the beauty of it.  Our goal is to take care of business on our home floor when these teams are coming in.  We want to be ranked as well, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t.  Playing teams like Arizona, quality opponents that have great wins on the season, and then demonstrating how we compare with them respectively, makes a great case not just for a top 25 ranking but for our overall resume for what this team is about this season.  This win is huge.  It’s the first of many that we need to have here on the home floor.”

CU had a tough loss on Friday night against No. 17 Arizona State, falling in five sets; but that loss helped motivate the Buffs for their match against UA since they felt they should have had that contest.

“Coming off of Arizona State, the loss, we knew we should have won that game,” senior outside hitter Taylor Simpson said. “So, we just came into this game knowing that we needed to win and everybody was ready to go this morning when we came to gym. Everybody was fired up and I think it was a complete team effort. It was a super fun game to play.”

Simpson and junior Alexis Austin each hammered 15 kills for the Buffs. The duo has been a frightening 1-2 punch for opposing teams since Austin has returned to the line-up.

“It takes so much pressure off of my shoulders,” Simpson said. “It is so nice to have Alexis back in the mix. I think everybody else can attest to that. It’s hard when all of the sets are coming back to me and I’m being relied on, so it’s definitely very helpful for Alexis to be back. It’s awesome. I’m so proud of Alexis. She had a really tough time the first couple weeks, she didn’t get to play. Sitting on the bench is not easy. She came out this weekend and showed us what she’s got and I hope she brings it next weekend as well.”

“Alexis being back gives us one more look,” Kritza said. “We still have a couple players coming off the injury list. The best part of this team is that it’s a total team effort. We are very selfless and we have to have different looks, different versions. The lineup has been pretty stable so far because of Alexis’s return but the flexibility is going to be a big piece for us. Having both Gabby Simpson and Nicole Edelman gives us some options, nice options, that I’m sure we will use throughout the season.”

Austin led the Buffs with a .583 hitting percentage. She had just one error, which came in the third set, on 24 attacks. Austin also added five block assists and a pair of digs. Taylor Simpson hit .212 in the win and picked up eight digs and two blocks.

The Buffs totaled 45 kills in the match and hit .250, while holding UA to just 38 kills and a .150 hitting percentage. Nicole Edelman handed out 22 assists for CU, while Gabby Simpson had 18 assists in the match.

Defensively, sophomore Cierra Simpson led CU with 23 digs. She recorded eight in the first set and three in the second set. During the third set, she fought hard and recorded 12 digs to help the Buffs finish off the Wildcats.

“Cierra’s very humble, which I love about her, that’s why she’s a good a player,” Kritza said. “But, the improvement that a player makes throughout the course of a season, it’s really special.  She’s done a very good job, not just balancing our serve receive.  She’s making adjustments.  Sometimes a libero does not get the credit, and the best you don’t even notice, because they are back there grinding it out. She’s progressed and she’s just a sophomore.  We can give her feedback and queues on how to adjust the defense.  That’s a lot of credit that doesn’t usually go her way.”

CU out-dug UA 57-44 and recorded 8.0 blocks to UA’s 6.0. Edelman also had double-digit digs with 10 for the Buffs. At the net, freshman Anna Pfefferle led CU with six block assists.

The Wildcats started the set with a 3-1 lead, but the Buffs went on an 8-1 run to take an advantage of 9-4, forcing UA to use both of its timeouts in a span of three points. The Wildcats got back within three points after a pair of kills (9-6), but the Buffs put some distance between them and UA and had a six-point lead at 16-10. UA chipped away at CU’s lead and was within three points at 23-20 when the Buffs called their first timeout of the match. UA took the following point, but CU answered with a kill from Katelyn Cuff to get to set point (24-21). The Wildcats fought off the first set point, but Taylor Simpson finished the game on the next point with a kill (25-22).

UA had the slight lead to start the second set (5-4) when CU recorded a 5-3 run to take a 10-8 advantage and force the Wildcats to use a timeout. The Buffs took the next two points before UA used a 4-0 run to even the game at 12-12. CU answered with a 4-1 run to retake the lead (16-13), at which point the Wildcats spent their second timeout of the game. UA kept firing at CU and got the score within one at 20-19, causing the Buffs to their first timeout of the set. The break worked and CU recorded a 5-2 run to take the set 25-21.

The Buffs took an 8-5 lead to start the third set. UA used its first timeout of the game at that point and recorded a pair of points out of the break. The Wildcats continued to attack and took the lead from CU at 14-13, causing Kritza to use one of CU’s timeouts. The two sides battled back and fourth down the stretch. CU used its final timeout when UA took a 21-19 lead. After the break, the Buffs retook the lead with three consecutive points (22-21) and it was a battle to the finish. UA fought off the first set point to get within one at 24-23, but Austin finished the match with a kill on the following point (25-23).

The Buffs will hit the road for a pair of matches in Southern California. They will face No. 19 USC on Friday, October 10 at 7 p.m. MT in Los Angeles and No. 20 UCLA on Sunday, October 12 at 12 p.m. in Malibu on Pepperdine University’s campus.

“Today was huge for us,” Cierra Simpson said. “It was a really good team win and that could be the turning point that we need going into this weekend, especially going into California and playing those L.A. schools. Obviously, away games are tough but I think this is a win that we needed and now we’ll have the fire under us and we can go and do what we need to do this weekend.”