Buffs Fall Short in Five-Set Thriller
BOULDER — The University of Colorado volleyball team played one of its best matches of the season in front of a season-high crowd of 2,846, but lost a heart-breaking five-set match to top-ranked Stanford on Friday night at the Coors Events Center. Set scores were 18-25, 25-18, 23-25, 25-19, 15-7.
“We expect to win these big matches and we expect to keep progressing and we expect to play at a high level,” coach Liz Kritza said. “So, I’ll give them the credit, hats off to them tonight. But, we are moving forward and taking all of the best out of this, understanding we can play point for point with anybody in the nation. That means that for us this season should be pretty exciting.”
The Buffs led the match 2-1, but weren’t able to hold of the best team in the country as Stanford rallied back to take the final two sets. But CU did what no other Pac-12 opponent has been able to do all season; push the Cardinal to five sets.
“We don’t believe in moral victories,” Kritza said. “We really, firmly believe that we could, and should, beat them, regardless of their ranking. But, credit to them; they bested us tonight. There are only two other teams in the country that have done that: taken them to five sets. As far as volleyball goes and as far as development goes, I can say that piece. But, as far as the competitor and speaking for my players who are just as hot under the collar as I am, we won’t accept that. That’s something that’s different for our program. We’re going to keep pressing and keep pushing.
Stanford improved to 17-0 (7-0) with the win, while the Buffs dropped to 11-8 (3-4).
Taylor Simpson hammered a match-high 22 kills and hit .265 in the match. Alexis Austin was second on the team with 16 kills and Gabby Simpson and Neira Ortiz Ruiz each had 10 kills. The Buffs hit .227 in the match with 70 kills and 29 errors on 181 attacks, but the Cardinal hit .319 with 68 kills and 17 errors on 160 swings. Nicole Edelman handed out 32 assists, while Gabby Simpson had 22 assists in the match.
Stanford also had four players in double-digits kills. Inky Ajanaku had 16 kills and hit .481 to lead the Cardinal. Morgan Boukather had 13 kills and Brittany Howard tallied 12 kills. Jordan Burgess was fourth of the team with 10 kills and also recorded a team-best 19 digs.
"Against a team like this, if they get three or four points ahead in a short set it's probably the most difficult situation you could find yourself in as a team,” Kritza said. “To go up against somebody that can score in their system and in transition because it's just a matter of time. There are a finite number of balls to be played in that fifth set, so it's just a matter of time. It's really hard to go on three-to-one and four-to-one runs. We were able to a few times tonight and that made the difference for us. In that first set and again in the third set we were able to get them stuck in rotations and we couldn't do that in the fifth set. That's how they got ahead of us, opened it up and ran away with it."
CU got out to a quick start in the first set, taking an 11-3 lead. SU cut the lead to five at 15-10, but the Buffs kept attacking and went back up by seven after taking the next two points (17-10). The Cardinal couldn’t slow down the Buffs, although SU did get within five points at 23-17, forcing the Buffs to use their first timeout of the set. Katelyn Cuff answered for the Buffs with a kill, giving CU set point at 24-17. The Cardinal took the following point, but CU finished the set with a kill from Austin (25-18).
The second set started off close with the Cardinal taking its first lead of the night (4-3). The Buffs retook the lead and went up 10-7. SU came back to even the score at 16-16 and took the lead on the following point. CU used a timeout when the Cardinal had a 19-17 advantage. SU took the next three points, forcing the Buffs to spend their last timeout of the set (22-17). CU took the next point on a kill from Austin, but the Cardinal answered with next points to take the set 25-18.
The Buffs took an 8-4 lead to start the third set, causing SU to quickly take a timeout. The Cardinal evened the set at 10-10, but CU regained the lead with three straight points (13-10). The two teams battled down the stretch and eventually SU tied it back up at 18-18. After a CU timeout, the Cardinal took back the lead, but the two sides again battled it out. The Buffs regained the lead at 22-21 and after a SU timeout, the Buffs went up 23-21 off a SU attack error. CU had set point after a kill from Pfefferle (24-21). The Cardinal fought off the first two set points (24-23), causing CU to use its final timeout. Austin finished the set off on the following point with a kill (25-23).
The Cardinal took a 9-6 lead in the fourth set. The Buffs used a timeout, but SU took the following four points out of the break (13-6) before the Buffs sided out with a kill from Ortiz Ruiz. The Buffs tried to get back into the set and got back within four points (18-14) when SU called a timeout. The Cardinal used a 4-2 run out of the break to go back up by six points (22-16). CU used its final timeout but wasn’t able to get any closer and lost 25-19.
SU took the first three points to start the fifth set, but after a CU timeout, the Buffs recorded two straight points (3-2). The set would be tied at 5-5 a few points later, before the Cardinal would take five straight for a 10-5 advantage. CU used its final timeout in an effort to stop SU’s attack, but the Cardinal didn’t let up and finished the set and the match 15-7.
“We need to make sure that the other team isn’t getting on the runs,” Edelman said. “That was the difference tonight. They had a great server, in the fifth set especially. We just got stuck in a rotation and we couldn’t get out of it. As a passing unit, we don’t get uncomfortable like that too often where we can’t side out. I think they did a great job with that. But, I just think making small adjustments in our passing and also in errors too. Those are the two things to take away for Sunday’s match.”
The Buffs will be back in action against California on Sunday, October 19 at 12 p.m. at the Coors Events Center.
Notes: Prior to Friday’s match, Stanford had not dropped a set to an unranked opponent this season…The Buffs hit .457 in set 1 with 17 kills and one error on 35 attacks…The attendance of 2,846 was the 11th largest in CU volleyball history…The Buffs finished 2-4 in a stretch of six straight matches against ranked opponents…Taylor Simpson recorded 22 kills, marking her sixth match this season with 20 or more kills…Cierra Simpson recorded 23 digs, her sixth time this season with 20 or more digs.