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CU Volleyballers Top California, 3-2

Feb 5, 2021

BOULDER — The University of Colorado women's volleyball team defeated California, 24-26, 25-15, 25-10, 22-25, 15-6 here Friday night at the CU Events Center.
 
Colorado (3-0, 3-0 Pac-12) has now won its first three matches for the third time in four seasons, but is 3-0 in conference games for the first time since 2001.  Cal dropped to 0-5 both overall and in league play, as the Buffs have now defeated the Bears 10 times in the last 13 meetings.
 
The Buffaloes snapped a 10-match losing streak when they lost the opening set, dating back to the end of the 2018 season; CU was 0-8 in such situations last season (2019).
 
Colorado won the second and third sets, Cal the first and fourth to set-up the fifth and deciding frame.  The schools split the first six points, but two consecutive kills by sophomore outside hitter Jill Schneggenburger followed by two Bear errors gave CU a 7-3 lead and the Buffs never looked back in the 15-6 triumph.  Junior setter Jenna Ewert had an outstanding set, as she had a role in 10 of CU's points on the strength of six assists, three block assists and a kill. 
 
Ewert had 46 assists, 12 digs, six kills and five blocks overall on the evening; sophomore outside hitter Elissa Alcantara and sophomore middle blocker Sterling Parker led the Buffs with 14 kills, with graduate student and middle blocker Rachael Fara adding 13 with a team-high .667 hitting percentage.  Schneggenburger had a team-high 13 digs along with nine kills.
 
Cal won a closely contested first set, 26-24, rallying late after the Buffs had forged ahead, 22-19.  Neither team led by more than three as there were 11 ties and four lead changes throughout.  Cal's big lead came after a five-point turn to go up 14-11, only to see the Buffaloes go on an 11-5 run to take the 22-19 advantage.  Sixteen of the points were scored due to errors, nine by CU.  Katarina Pantovic scored 6.5 points with five kills to lead the Bears to the opening set win.
 
The Buffs worked out to a 5-1 lead in the second set, and were up, 7-5, before going on a five-point run to take the biggest lead of the night at the time, 12-5.  Cal then scored the next three points and got as close as 13-10, but would not get any closer as CU used 10 kills – five from Parker, to outscore the Bears the rest of the way 12-5 en route to a 25-15 win.  There were no ties or lead changes unlike the first set, with Colorado getting 16 kills by five different players in the set, seven by Parker and five by Fara.  Ewert recorded 12 assists for Colorado.
 
After a 1-1 tie that opened set number three, CU went on a 7-1 run to go up 8-2 and never looked back on its way to a 25-10 rout.  The Buffaloes got 13 kills from six different players (five with two or more), as Ewert had 10 assists.  The score was the most dominant for CU in a set in Pac-12 competition since the second set in a 3-2 loss at Arizona in November 2018, when the Buffs outscored the Wildcats, 25-8.  It was the third most dominant set for CU since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the only other more lopsided also a 25-8 second set win at Arizona State in 2015.
 
Despite getting blown out in the third set, Cal showed resilience in coming out for the fourth and tied the match at two sets apiece with a 25-22 win.  After two early lead changes and seven ties, the seventh at 12-12, the Bears used a 7-2 spurt to go up 19-14, as 10 of those 19 points came on Colorado errors.  The Buffs pulled to within one twice after that, the last time at 21-20, but Cal was able to hold on down the stretch.
 
The second of the two-match set between the Buffaloes and Golden Bears will be this Sunday with a Noon (MST) start, thus avoiding a conflict with the Super Bowl that kicks off around 4:25. 
 
NOTES: Colorado, in its 35th season as a varsity sport, will be shooting to open a season with four straight wins for the sixth time in its history and for its eighth 4-0 start in conference play, last achieved in 1998 when the Buffs opened 7-0 in Big 12 conference matches … Colorado now leads the all-time series with Cal by a 12-7 count (10-7 with both as members of the Pac-12); the Buffs lead 8-3 in Boulder … Alexia Kuehl CU's 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman, made her first career start, subbing for an injured Meegan Hart at middle blocker … The 25-10 margin in the third set was CU's largest since a 25-7 edge in the second set of a 3-0 win over Maryland-Baltimore County in September 2019 … Jesse Mahoney is now 72-57 as head coach of the Buffaloes in five seasons at the reins of the program (41-19 at the CU Events Center, 18-14 in matches that go five sets) … Boulder Country Health officials gave the go-ahead for a handful of friends and families of the coaches and players to attend the match … Cal had opened the year with two losses each to No. 22 UCLA and No. 8 Utah (outscored in games, 12-2), while CU swept Oregon State (6-1 in games) and was off last week as the schedule had called for two matches at Stanford before the Cardinal canceled their first four of the season due to COVID issues … The Buffs head out on the road for the first time this season after Sunday's match, with contests at Washington State on Feb. 11 and 13.
 
QUOTES
 
Head Coach Jesse Mahoney 
 
On The Win
"That is exciting. It was a really interesting match. Cal was 0-4 coming in but we knew they had a lot of talent and the young players out there. The one thing they have done during the season is they are different each time they come out. They run some different play sets. They are in a 5-1 and a 6-2 which makes them a little hard to prepare for. What we prepared for wasn't what they did tonight so it took us a little while to catch up. I told the team after the match that it was some of the best volleyball we have played this season and unfortunately some of the sloppiest we have played this season as well. If we can put it all together I think we can be a really good team."
 
On The Match
"The first set we had, I don't want to say control of, but we felt like we were in a really good place and kind of let it slip away. Going into the second set we just kind of recalibrated and talked about controlling things we can control on our side of the net and limiting our egos a little bit. We really had some good play in that set. The following set, I hate winning by large margins because the next set you always come back down to earth a little bit. That happened to us in set four. We dominate set three and then kind of let our foot off the gas. Kudos to the players for regrouping and playing a really clean fifth set and coming out with a win."
 
On What He Told The Team
"Part of coaching is you need to give the team what they need to be successful moving forward. Sometimes it is having them calm down. Sometimes it is getting them fired up a little bit. Sometimes it is just information and tactical things. Between each set we tried to give a lot of tactical information and make the changes we need to make. Then a lot of it is trying to get our kids to play within themselves and do what we do everyday in practice. "We got into a little lull there with serving. There were a lot of serving errors. That kind of bit us a little bit. I thought we finished the match out serving fantastic. You have to give them the time to work through some things, especially this team that is a little bit more veteran. They have that ability to do that. I can't remember what Sterling said that I said, but each set was different. I will tell you, going into the fourth set I told them, 'This will be the hardest one.' They didn't listen to that. It doesn't matter what I say sometimes."
 
On Jenna Ewert
"I think someone called her beast earlier. She had a great performance in that fifth set, especially blocking at the net. She really shut down their outside hitters. We are lucky to have some great competitors on this team and Jenna is at the top of that list. When she gets fired up she fires up everybody."
 
Sophomore Right Side Sterling Parker
 
On The Win
"I am super excited with the win. I think we fought really hard. I am super pumped up right now."
 
On Brynna DeLuzio's Early Season Success
"That is just a testament to how hard she has been working. She was off for quite some time. We are super excited to have her back. She has been working so hard in her off time to get stronger and get back on the court. It shows with her award (CU Athlete of the Week). We are super proud of her."
 
On Serving
"The serve-pass game is one of the most important parts of volleyball. We really focus on that in every practice. We serve in every practice we have. Our serving game is super important. When we serve well and get the other team out of system, we have an opportunity to score more. It is one of the most important things I think."
 
On Coach Mahoney's Message After The First Set
"Jesse does a really good job of giving us pep talks in between sets. He kind of just told us to get out of our heads and shake off our errors. It was a new set and we started over 0-0. His main point was to just do what we know how to do. We just made it work."
 
On If Complacency Or Fight From Cal Contributed To The Fourth Set Loss
"It was a mix of both. When you beat a team by that much it can be hard and sometimes you can get complacent and get comfortable. Cal also did a really good job of fighting hard the entire match. It is a mix of us having to go into each match with a fresh mind and understanding that they are going to fight hard, if not harder, each set. We just got going with that mindset."
 
On Jenna Ewert
"Having Jenna next to you is one of the most exciting things as a hitter. Obviously she is a setter so she is on the court all the time. Having that kind of motivation and energy with us at all times is incredible. I think it really helps to push us to that next level and keep our energy up constantly. She does a really good job of keeping us high energy, as i am sure you can see."
 
Graduate Middle Hitter Rachael Fara
 
On what it is like playing season with such uncertainty
"We just have to be grateful for every game that we get.  I love this sport, and I have been playing now for six years.  Every opportunity that we get to step on the court to practice and be with the team,  Is what we have to focus on, at least that is what I focus on.  That is the best thing for me and I think the team moving forward."
 
On what it's like having a teammate like Jenna Ewert
"There are definitely a lot of great players that I have played with and am playing with now.  Jenna (Ewert) specifically is awesome, having someone with such high volleyball IQ right next to you.  Having that middle and Setter relationship is really good because we can kind of coach ourselves sometimes.  We can correct any missed connections; I can leave her on the block because I know that she is going to line up super well.  I love it, she is super high energy."
 
On if team remained confident through struggles in the match
"I think that we were all still pretty confident.  I think that we stay confident and then we can get in our own heads because we want to perform so highly.  Everyone on this team is so well driven that we want everything to be perfect.  We just have to be able to relax and calm down a little bit.  I do not think that it is a lack of confidence.  I think that it is more just putting pressure on ourselves."