No. 19 Buffs Hold Off Bears To Advance In NCAA Tourney
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The No. 19 Buffaloes defeated Northern Colorado 3-1 on Friday afternoon to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
"We are honored and happy to be advancing to the second round," head coach Liz Kritza. "That was a battle. A lot of times the score does not reflect how difficult the game is played on the court. Credit to UNC, and Lyndsey (Oates), she did a really good job, they are a well-coached team. I am really proud of my players and my staff for coming back after we dropped that set. It was a deuce set and it was a part of volleyball being played at the highest level. I am glad we came back and responded the way we did, and we came back to our form. We are happy to be moving forward."
The University of Colorado held off the Bears 25-19, 25-15, 24-26, 25-15 at Moby Arena and will play No. 9 Colorado State Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
"CSU and CU is a big rivalry, and we know they get huge crowds for volleyball," senior Taylor Simpson said. "It's an electric atmosphere, but it's nothing we haven't been through. We played at Oregon and they had a huge crowd, and other places with huge crowds as well, so I think we are ready for tomorrow."
CU is now 20-13 overall, while UNC finished with a 22-11 record. This is the first time since 2003 CU has recorded 20 or more wins in a season.
Simpson led the Buffs with 21 kills, her ninth match this season with 20 or more kills, which tied a CU record. Simpson was on fire, hitting .347 with four errors on 49 attacks. Simpson had 10 digs for her 21st double-double this season. She also added a solo block for a match-best 23.0 points.
Alexis Austin also played extremely well for the Buffs, hammering 16 kills while hitting .333. At the net, Austin posted four block assists for 18.0 points.
"Everyone who plays us knows Taylor and Alexis carry a big load for us because they are such great players," junior setter Nicole Edelman said. "It really depends on matchups, if we have three to four hitters where ever they are scoring for us it will help us a lot."
Colorado recorded 56 kills and hit .215, while holding UNC to 40 kills and a .075 hitting efficiency. Edelman handed out 25 assist, while Gabby Simpson tallied 19 assists.
The Buffs out-blocked the Bears 13.0-9.0. Anna Pfefferle led the way with 10 blocks, three solo and seven assists. Gabby Simpson led the team with 14 digs, while Gwen Herring and Cierra Simpson each picked up 12 digs. Edelman added another 11 digs in the win. The Buffs had 64 total digs to UNC's 56.
During the match, sophomore Cierra Simpson became CU's single season digs record holder. She entered the match tied for the record with 490 digs and broke the record with her first dig of the contest. She is the first Buff to record 500 or more digs and currently has 502 this season.
The Buffs jumped out to a 5-1 start in the first set and held a strong advantage during most of the set. CU led 15-9 at the media timeout and was up 17-10 when UNC recorded a 4-0 run to get within three points (17-14), forcing the Buffs to take a timeout. CU took three of the next four points (20-15), but again the Bears rallied with three in a row. The Buffs answered with a 5-1 run to close the set 25-19.
The second set started a lot closer. The score was tied at 7-7 when CU put together a 9-3 run to take a 16-10 advantage in the game. The Buffs were up 19-12 when UNC took its last timeout of the set. The Bears took the first point out of the break, but CU took three of the next four points for a 22-14 lead. The Buffs went on to take the set 25-15.
CU fought back from a 7-1 deficit in the third set to even the game at 11-11. UNC again went up, but this time just by two points (13-11), which CU quickly erased. The Buffs had their first lead of the set at 15-14 and the two sided battled down the stretch. The game was tied at 22-22 when CU called its last timeout. The Buffs took the first point, but UNC answered (23-23). The set would be tied again at 24-24 before the Bears recorded two consecutive points to win 26-24.
"They pinned us into a couple of rotations, and we could not side-out," Kritza said. "They did a good job being aggressive, making our players who were scoring points for us offensively handle the ball as well. They made them pass and swing and the different matchups, there was a different look on the floor. I think it's a matter of us not getting stuck out of rotations and really matching them (UNC) point-for-point. That is there forte and they are a really aggressive team and they tested us in that third set, but I am glad we came back and finished."
The Buffs took a 12-4 lead to start the fourth set, which included a 6-0 run on the serve of Gabby Simpson. UNC took the next two points, but the Buffs sided-out and put together an 8-0 run on Herring's serve (20-6). The Bears were able to take five straight points (20-11), but it wasn't enough to hold off the Buffs as CU finished the set 25-15.
"I have a really good group of people that help prepare this team," Kritza said. "The assistant coaches go out and we watch as much video as we can collect. The players can talk about this too, we knew what they were going to do, and it doesn't mean that the game plan is always easy to execute. When you have a team that is versatile and pressures, your serve-receive the way they were, serving in particular rotations, sometimes it's hard to get out of certain rows, and credit to them they capitalized on certain matchups."