Colorado Ready For Pac-12/BIG TEN Challenge
BOULDER – Colorado volleyball will take its unbeaten record to Champaign, Ill., this weekend for the annual Pac-12/BIG TEN Challenge featuring the Buffs, No. 11 Washington, Iowa and host school Illinois.
The Buffs are coming off a 2-0 weekend at the Charlotte Invitational to start the season and are led by the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week Leah Clayton who ranked fifth in the nation in kills per set. CU takes on Iowa (0-2) Friday at 3 p.m. MT before taking on the Illini (3-0) Saturday at 1 p.m.
Clayton had an explosive start to the season, leading the conference in kills and points per set. She is fifth in the nation in kills per set at 5.29 and seventh in points per set at 5.93. She is joined in the NCAA Top-10 by Jenna Ewert who ranks ninth in the nation in assists per set at 12.14, while the team is ranked seventh in the nation in both assists and kills per set.
Colorado will rely on its offense to carry them through this test as they are hitting .294 this season and averaging 15.43 kills per set. The defense was also strong allowing opponents to hit just .173 with 2.57 blocks per set. Both Brynna DeLuzio and Meegan Hart are in the top-10 in the Pac-12 in digs and blocks, respectfully, and the seniors will have a big role this weekend to remain tough against strong BIG TEN opponents.
Both matches will be streamed live on BIG TEN Plus. CU returns home next weekend to host the 2021 Buffs Invitational against Texas Tech, San Jose State and Northern Colorado.
SCOUTING THE ILLINI
Illinois won the Panther Invite to open its season, defeating UC-Santa Barbara in five sets before sweeping host Milwaukee and Valparaiso. Illinois deals with Washington the night before at 8 p.m. then face off with CU who has won three of the last four matches against the team including sweeping them in Iowa in 2019 when they were ranked fifth in the nation.
Illinois is hitting .191 as a team in their three matches with a mixed attack coming from five players with 20 or more kills. Raina Terry leads the team with 37 kills at a .112 hitting percentage, while Kennedy Collins has 32 while hitting .500. Libero Taylor Kuper owns the backrow with 44 digs (4.00 digs/set) while Kyla Swanson has 14 blocks (1.27 blocks/set).
SCOUTING THE HAWKEYES
Iowa started the season with a pair of losses in South Carolina. They opened the season with a five-set loss to Duke before getting swept by Coastal Carolina. Iowa is hitting .171 as a team led by Courtney Buzzerio who has 42 kills and is averaging 5.25 per set with a .316 hitting percentage. She has more than double the swings of anyone else on the team.
Defensively, Maddie Slagle has a team-best 32 digs (4.00 digs/set). Iowa only has nine team blocks this season compared to being blocked 21 times (2.62 blocks/set against).