Buffaloes to Battle Washington State
BOULDER – The Colorado volleyball team will face its toughest opponent of the season thus far Thursday at 5 p.m MT and Saturday at noon when the team heads to Pullman, Wash., to take on No.22-ranked Washington State.
The Buffaloes (4-0) are one of the two unbeaten teams in the Pac-12 and will face battle-tested Washington State (4-2) who has a win against every series opponent faced this season. In the three series against Oregon, Arizona State and No.18 UCLA, Washington State has had a four-set match and a five-set match, losing a five-setter to Oregon at home and dropping a four-setter at home against UCLA. Both losses came on the second matchup of the series.
The matchup will also feature two of the best defensive teams in the country. Colorado has three individuals in the top-10 in the conference in blocks per set, including the leader Meegan Hart and the second-best in setter Jenna Ewert. Colorado's 2.47 blocks per set only trail Washington State's 2.56 per set in conference standings.
Ewert will be key for Colorado, as she has the Buffs hitting a league-best .294 through four matches. Despite having Hart out last weekend and Leah Clayton out for the past four matches, Ewert has the CU offense rolling. Whether it's sophomore standouts Elissa Alcantara, who is hitting .325 as a pin hitter, or right side Sterling Parker, Colorado has plenty of options. If Clayton returns she will join Jill Schneggenburger and freshman Maya Tabron as six-rotation option for Colorado at outside. In the middle, Rachael Fara leads the conference with a .510 hitting percentage, and redshirt freshman Alexia Kuehl stepped into Hart's starting role just to hit a combined .500 without an error in her first two starts.
Add in that CU is second in the conference with 2.13 aces per set with Taylor deProsse, Brynna DeLuzio and Ewert all in the conference top-10 standings in aces per set, Colorado has many ways to take down the Cougs.
SCOUTING THE COUGS
The Cougs are scrappy. They find ways to find. In the first matchup against Oregon, Washington State hit .201 and Oregon hit .204. Everything in the box score would predict an Oregon win, not a Cougar 3-1 victory at home. In the second matchup, the Ducks held WSU to .093 hitting, but still the Cougars forced a fifth set that they lost. Against Arizona State, Washington State put up 15 and 13 blocks in four and five sets, respectfully. Against UCLA, WSU hit .336 in a five-set win, then were held to a .127 hitting percentage in a four-set loss despite hitting .400 in their second set win.
The keys for Colorado to key on will be to limit WSU's blocks with Kalyah Williams and AVCA Freshman of the Year Magda Jehlarova up front with 30 and 28 blocks, respectfully. The Cougars are also strong in the back row, averaging 14.41 digs per set. Offensively, Jehlarova is hitting .376 but outside of her the team only has Williams hitting greater than .200 at .209. If the team can keep WSU's offense in chaos it should fair well for CU.