Buffs Escape Cougars In Five Sets
BOULDER — In a must-win match, the University of Colorado volleyball team narrowly escaped Washington State on Wednesday afternoon, defeating the Cougars 3-2 (19-25, 25-13, 25-20, 19-25, 18-16).
"The reality is there are great teams in this conference, from top to bottom, there are 12 great teams," head coach Liz Kritza said. "That's just proof of it, if you lose focus for a ball or two or portions of sets, you're in for a battle. That's the story of this match.
"It's not that we took anybody lightly but when a team gets going and they're able to use their weapons to the best of their abilities, their offense is fiery, any team in this league is hard to contend with," Kritza said. "For us, we're pleased that we won but not anywhere close to being pleased with the manner in which we won. We know that we need to do better."
The Buffs improved to 18-13 and are fifth in the Pac-12 (10-9). WSU fell to 16-15 (5-14 Pac-12).
The win helps Colorado stay alive in the hunt for a berth to the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced on Sunday at 7 p.m. during the selection show on ESPNU.li
"It was must-win for us, but so are all matches this week for Pac-12 teams, because every team is wanting to do the same thing," Kritza. "Everybody wants to see their name on the bracket Sunday night. Anything we can do to affect that is to continue to win."
Colorado recorded 71 kills in the match and was led by Alexis Austin, who hammered 24 while hitting .250. Gabby Simpson added another 19 kills, while Anna Pfefferle tallied 14. Pfefferle also hit a match-best .522 with just two errors on 23 attacks.
The Buffs offense was clicking, thanks in part to Nicole Edelman's 55 assists (11.00 per set). She also added four kills of her own. CU hit .214, which included a .485 hitting percentage in the second set, as well as a .306 clip in the third frame.
WSU hit .197 in the contest with 53 kills. Kyra Holt led the Cougars with 15 kills and added 11 digs. McKenna Woodford had 13 kills in the effort and picked up 12 digs.
Defensively the Buffs out-dug the Cougars (67-58). Cierra Simpson led CU with 24 digs, while Edelman tallied 13. At the net, Colorado posted 12.5 blocks. Austin had five blocks, including two solos, while Edelman and Naghede Abu each put up five block assists.
The Buffs led 17-15 in the first set before the Cougars roared back to take the lead at 18-17. WSU extended its lead to 22-19, at which point CU took a timeout. The Cougars recorded three straight points out of the break to take the set 25-19.
CU came out of the gate hot to start the second set, taking a 7-2 advantage before WSU needed to take a timeout. The Buffs did not let up, increasing their lead to nine points (13-4). The Cougars tried to cut into CU's lead, but weren't successful as the Buffs finished the set 25-13.
Colorado led the third set 9-7, but then recorded seven straight to go up 16-7. WSU rallied back within four points (17-13), but the Buffs went back up by seven a short time later (22-15). CU had set point at 24-17, but the Cougars weren't ready to let the set go, fighting off three straight set points. The Buffs took a quick timeout and finished the set with a kill from Austin (25-20).
The fourth set had the Cougars taking an 11-6 lead, but the Buffs chipped away at it, getting within three points at 12-9. The Cougars went back up, this time taking a seven point lead at 21-14, causing the Buffs to use their final timeout. CU was able to get the score back to four points (22-18), but didn't have enough time to complete the comeback as WSU took the set 25-19.
The Buffs recorded a 7-2 start to the fifth set, causing WSU to take a timeout. The Cougars got back within two at 8-6 and this time CU took a timeout. WSU went ahead at 9-8 after putting together a 6-0 run. The Buffs took the following two points to retake the lead (10-9), but it was a battle to the finish and extra points were needed. WSU had set point at 16-15, but the Buffs came back to win the set with three straight kills from Austin.
"We just remained calm, and we knew we could win so the main thing was to remain calm and be confident and go for the win," Austin said.
The Buffs will close out the regular season by hosting Utah on Friday, Nov. 27, at 12 p.m.
"We owe them (Utah) one for a tough loss on the road," Kritza said. "This rivalry match is always a good thing in the Pac-12; they're all televised and there's a lot of national attention on it. For us, if we want to make it into the tournament and make a run, then we need to take care of business on Friday."