Buffs Sweep Air Force To Win Omni Invitational
BOULDER — The University of Colorado’s volleyball team became the Omni Hotels Invitational Champions this weekend after defeating the Air Force Falcons Sunday night 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-23).
“I couldn’t be prouder of my kids for pulling off four wins on the weekend,” said head coach Liz Kritza. “This is what high level athletics should be and it’s a really great weekend for the Buffs. We’re very proud to represent the institution.”
The Buffs started out strong in the first set quickly taking the lead over the Falcons. CU’s Naghede Abu earned the first point of the game, quickly followed by Gabby Simpson. After racking up the score to 11-6, Air Force took their first timeout.
CU kept their lead throughout the first set and finished off the game with a score of 25-19.
“It hasn't always been perfect and happy through this non-conference portion so they’re ready. They’re battle tested and ready,” said Kritza. “It hasn't been a perfect non-conference slate but it was a pretty good one against really tough competition and I know that they’re ready because we’ve had those challenges.”
In the second set, CU once again earned the first point and quickly brought the score to 6-3. However, the Falcons were not willing to give up the fight and tied the Buffs twice, once at 7-7 and again at 8-8. CU pulled ahead after that and never let go of the lead.
With consistent kills from Simpson and Alexis Austin, the Buffs took down the Falcons again in the second set with a score of 25-19.
“I took a different leadership role this weekend, keeping the team fired up,” Austin said. “Everyone on the team played great and they were able to step up and take on bigger roles, taking more swings on the balls and being able to make those plays. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them and they couldn’t do it without me pushing them to be better.
Down 2-0, the Falcons put up a strong fight in the third game. They earned the first point, but CU rallied and brought the score to 10-4 before Air Force took a timeout.
As soon as play began again, CU’s Anna Pfefferle and Katelyn Cuff had a strong block and earned the Buffs another point, 11-4. The Falcons refused to back down and after their next timeout, they brought the score to 16-11, forcing the Buffs to call for a timeout of their own.
“We just really came together, realized we had the lead and just capitalized on it,” said junior Cierra Simpson. “We just kept in mind that we didn’t need to push ourselves into a fourth set. We really just came together and finished it.”
Air Force kept their momentum going and tied the game at 18-18, putting pressure on the Buffaloes. Though CU never lost the lead, the Falcons caught up again at 22-22.
At the game point, Air Force’s Rebecca Bates had a service error and the Buffs took the win, 25-23.
“I feel like over the weekend we had ups and down because we would get those leads then lay off the gas just a little bit for five or six points, then have to rally back into the game,” Austin said. “So when we win the first two sets the third one is crucial, because you don’t want to go to four sets. So it’s important to stay on top of it and to push through to the last set.”
Earlier in the day, CU defeated George Mason 3-1 (25-15, 23-25, 25-6, 26-24). Simpson had another outstanding performance, leading the Buffs with 16 kills. She also tied a career-high with five aces and added three digs and four blocks.
Pfefferle led CU with a .438 hitting percentage with nine kills and just two errors on 16 attacks. She also led the team with six blocks, one solo and five assists. Abu was third on the team with eight kills and also posted five block assists.
In total the Buffs tallied 49 kills and hit .241, while putting up 12.0 blocks. GMU hit .092 with 33 kills and had 8.0 blocks. Nicole Edelman handed out 35 assists and added three kills. She ended the Air Force match leading the Buffs with a .455 hitting percentage.
Simpson and Austin dominated the court throughout the entire Air Force match and ended with 16.5 and 10.5 points respectively. Austin came out with ten kills, while Simpson tallied 13 and was named MVP of the Omni Invitational.
Abu and Edelman were also named all-tournament honorees for their play over the invitational.
“This team functions, because players know their roles; they understand what their job is,” said Kritza. “We have this thing where we can talk about just doing your job. I have players on this team, that I’m fortunate, when they just do their jobs, these are high level performances, these are All-American level performances.”
The Buffs (8-4) open Pac-12 play on Wednesday, Sept. 23 against Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah. The match is set for a 6 p.m. MT start and will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network.
“Everyone is 0-0 in the Pac-12.Everyone has been tested and we have some good opportunities,” Kritza said. “I’m quite sure that (Utah) will be ready and I’m sure we’ll be ready.”