No. 22 Buffs Hand Second-Ranked Huskies First Loss
BOULDER— For the second time in two years, the No. 22 Buffs have handed the University of Washington its first loss of the season, defeating the second-ranked Huskies 3-2 (27-25, 26-24, 17-25, 23-25, 15-11) on Thursday night at the Coors Events Center.
"I'm very proud of this group, players and coaches alike," head coach Liz Kritza said. "To come back and put forth a performance and just really grind out a win was great."
This is the second time the University of Colorado volleyball team has beaten a No. 2 ranked opponent; the last time was in 2008 when CU beat Nebraska, also at the Coors Events Center. The victory is the fifth ranked win of the season for CU, tying the most in a single season. The other two seasons CU had five wins were 1996 and 1993. Both of those years, as well as this year, CU won two of those matches at home and three on the road.
"It's a great feeling [to be the first team to beat Washington]," senior Taylor Simpson said. "This morning when I woke up, I had a good feeling going into tonight. My team was there the whole time, everybody was there to back each other up and we came out with a win."
The Buffs improve to 16-11 (8-7 Pac-12) with the win, while the Huskies are now 25-1 (14-1 Pac-12).
Colorado came out of the gates in the match well, winning the first two sets, but didn't keep pace as well with UW in the following two sets. It all came down to the last game, and CU wasn't going to let this match go since the Buffs had lost a few close five-set matches this season.
"We have all of our coaches working so hard with our scouting and it was the fifth set, so we had to win, there was no other option," senior Neira Ortiz Ruiz said. "And just executing and doing my blocking assignments and hitting well, and if I wasn't hitting well for my team and for my coaches I had to block and I had to execute."
CU had lost the last two matches at home last weekend, so this was a great way for the Buffs to bounce back as they enter the last few weeks of the season.
"It was a fantastic match, it was really exciting and there was some really good volleyball being played out there," Kritza said. "To come out on the winning side was great. How we played in the fifth set particularly really makes me happy to see that we were tested, pushed and responded really well to come away with a big win. These kids deserve it, they worked their tails off for it and my staff did a good job getting everybody back on track and focused on the right things. We'll enjoy it."
It was a great team effort for the Buffs. They had 69 kills in the win and posted 15.5 team blocks. Simpson tied her career-high by hammering 29 kills. She hit .299 with nine errors on 67 swings. Simpson also tied her career-high in digs, picking up 22 in the win for her second 20-20 double-double of her career.
Junior Alexis Austin and Ortiz Ruiz each had double-digit kills. Austin recorded 14 kills and Ortiz Ruiz had 11 kills. Ortiz Ruiz was also a force at the net, posting a career-best eight blocks. Freshman Anna Pfefferle also had a career-high, posting 11 blocks. She also added six kills and three digs.
Senior Nicole Edelman handed out 42 assists in the match and picked up 19 digs, yet another career-high for a Buff. Gabby Simpson also set for CU and had 14 assists and six digs.
Everyone contributed in the victory. Sophomore Katelyn Cuff had six kills, some coming at key moments in the match. Senior Rachel Hargis played the entire match and had two kills and three blocks. Sophomore Cierra Simpson was busy for the Buffs defensively, picking up 21 digs. Sophomore Gwen Herring added eight digs.
Krista Vansant led UW with 20 kills and Tia Scambray had 14 kills. Bailey Tanner led the Huskies with 18 digs and Cassie Strickland picked up 17. Lianna Sybeldon posted 10 blocks in the effort.
Taylor Simpson recorded 10 kills and hit .625, helping the Buffs past the Huskies 27-25 in set 1. UW led the Buffs 20-18 late in the set, forcing CU to take its first timeout. The Buffs rallied back with 5-2 run to take a 23-22 advantage, this time causing UW to use a timeout. The Huskies took a pair of points after the break to get to set point (24-23). The Buffs fought off the first set point after a quick timeout and took the next point off a kill from Taylor Simpson. UW evened the set with a kill from Vansant (25-25), but the Buffs finished the game with two more kills from Taylor Simpson.
The second set was another close one with neither team giving much as the set was tied 19 times. CU had a 16-14 lead, but UW came back with a 5-2 run to take a 19-18 advantage. The Buffs took a timeout and recorded a 3-1 run to retake a 21-20 lead. The two teams kept battling and the score would be even at 22-22. UW had set point just three points later (24-23), but CU fought and recorded the next two points to get its own set point (25-24). The Huskies spent their final timeout, but Katelyn Cuff finished the game out of the break with a kill (26-24).
UW got out to a 14-7 lead in the third frame. The Buffs chipped away at the lead and got within five points at 15-10, but the Huskies went ahead again (19-12). CU didn't give up and battled to get within four points (20-16), forcing UW to take a timeout. The Huskies recorded the following three points (23-16) and CU took its final timeout, but UW finished the set 25-17.
The Buffs took a quick timeout in the fourth set after UW took an 8-4 lead. CU quickly cut the lead to one with a 5-1 run (10-9), and this time the Huskies called a timeout. The score was tied on the following point after a UW attack error (10-10). The two sides went back and forth until the Huskies had an 18-15 advantage, causing CU to use its last timeout. The Buffs came back again to even the score at 19-19. The Buffs went ahead on the next point after a kill from Austin (20-19) and used a 3-1 run to take a 23-20 advantage before UW rallied to take five straight points to win the set (25-23).
CU took a 5-2 lead to start the final set, thanks in part to three blocks by Ortiz Ruiz and Pfefferle. UW came back to even the score at 6-6, but the Buffs retook the lead at the side-change (8-7). CU had a two-point lead (10-8) when the Huskies had to use their final timeout. The Buffs didn't let up and went on to finish the game 15-11.
"We've been at this long enough to enjoy a big win like this, but what we'll do tomorrow is get ready for the next big Pac-12 team coming in on Sunday," Kritza said. "They don't have the same number [ranking] by their name, but there is no question in my mind that this is another tough team that we need to make sure that we're prepared to handle our business and protect our home floor."
The Buffs will be back in action on Sunday, Nov. 16, at 12 p.m. against Washington State. The match will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.
Notes: Taylor recorded her 16th double-double of the season with 29 kills and 22 digs, tying career-highs in both categories…This is her second career 20-20 double-double…Nicole Edelman had her sixth double-double of the year with 42 assists and a career-high 19 digs…This is the second time CU has defeated a No. 2 ranked team…The Buffs have now defeated UW each of the last two seasons at the Coors Events Center.