Colorado Fends Off Illinois In Five
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Colorado volleyball survived a five-set comeback 3-2 (25-21, 25-18, 16-25, 22-25, 18-16) here against host Illinois Saturday afternoon in the 2021 Pac-12/BIG TEN Challenge to remain unbeaten on the season.
The Buffs (4-0) took an early two-set lead but had to fight off a pair of match points from Illinois (3-2) to finish off a fifth-set comeback 18-16. This is the third straight season Colorado has opened 4-0 as a team and the fourth time in head coach Jesse Mahoney's six seasons.
Leah Clayton led all hitters in the match with 19 kills on a .213 hitting clip. She was joined by Maya Tabron who had 16 kills and Jill Schneggenburger with 10 kills. All three women captured double-doubles with 11 digs.
Defensively, Brynna DeLuzio put up a career-high 28 digs, becoming just the second player in the Mahoney era to achieve that mark and 17th in school history to do so or better. Up front, Alexia Kuehl had a team-best six blocks while Meegan Hart had five.
Also for Colorado, Jenna Ewert had 44 assists while DeLuzio had both of CU's service aces.
Illinois was led by Megan Cooney who had 15 kills, four aces, nine digs and six blocks. Raina Terry and Kennedy Collins each added a dozen kills while Taylor Kuper had 21 digs.
Both teams finished with 11 blocks as the Buffs outhit the Illini .186 to .124. Illinois owned the service line, putting down 15 aces including six in the third set. The Buffs finished the match hitting .360 as a team in the fifth set to make the difference.
Colorado returns home for the first time this season to host the Buffs Invitational Friday against Texas Tech at 10 a.m. They will play night matches at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday against San Jose State and Northern Colorado, respectfully.
HOW IT HAPPENED
SET 1: Buffs owned the service line to start with an Illini service error then a DeLuzio ace. Illinois used an early challenge on the third point on a play down the line that was called out. The challenge was reversed, giving Illinois the kill. Cooney put down a pair of kills followed up by an ace to tie things up at three-all. The Buffs put together a four-point run to take an 8-5 lead. Illinois called the first timeout as CU took a 14-10 lead. Illinois put together a three-point run to take the lead at 18-17 and force a CU timeout. Illinois left the break hitting .412 while CU was hitting .235. A fourth service error for the Illini tied things up again, then a second hall handing error on the Illinois setter gave CU the lead. A Colorado block gave CU a three-point run and force an Illini timeout. A pair of attack errors from Illinois set CU up with set-point at 24-21. A block finished things off for CU, the fourth of the set as CU held Illinois to a .154 hitting percentage. Illinois also had four service errors to CU's one in the set and had a pair of ball-handling errors.
SET 2: After starting down 2-0, CU put down a pair of kills to tie things up. Clayton put down three straight kills to give her four in the set and a 5-2 lead. Colorado continued to roll with Hart and Clayton paving their way to a 10-4 lead. Back-to-back Tabron kills forced the Illini into their first timeout down 13-6. The Buffs were hitting .351 as a team compared to .104 for Illinois. CU strung together three-straight to take an 18-8 lead. The Buffs hit the 20-point mark up eight. The Illini put together three straight forcing -a CU timeout. The Buffs subbed in Kelley Levaggi and Taylor Simpson momentarily. Set point came at 24-18, then finished it off a play later with a block. Clayton finished with eight kills in the set with a .412 hitting percentage while Hart and Schneggenburger each had five.
SET 3: Colorado got out to a 5-2 lead before Illinois scored six of seven to take an 8-6 lead. The Buffs subbed in Levaggi and Simpson again, but the Illini kept the run going with five straight to force a CU timeout at 10-6. The run continued to seven before CU could sideout after coach put back in Ewert and Schneggenburger. Illinois quickly put together another run of three to take a 15-7 lead. The Buffs put together a pair of points to bring it to 15-9 when Illinois called timeout. CU closed down to 15-11 behind a pair of Clayton kills. Colorado tried to claw into it but found itself down 20-14 and calling timeout. Illinois put down four-straight before serving into the net for a 22-15 lead. The set ended at 25-16 with CU hitting .118 in the set compared to .263. Clayton closed the set with 13 total kills and a .310 hitting percentage while Cooney led with nine and four aces for the home team and a .167 hitting percentage. Illinois owned the service line with six aces in the set, bringing their match total to a dozen.
SET 4: Both teams worked out to a four-all tie. CU strung together four straight points to take a 6-4 lead. The teams notched things back up at 10 all. The tie continued to a challenge at 15-15 as Illinois challenged a contact at the net unsuccessfully. CU backed it up with a block to put together a run of three. The Illini responded with a run of three of their own to force CU into a timeout. CU tied it up at 19 all, but Illinois put down its 14th ace of the match to take a 21-19 lead. Another point forced a CU timeout down three. The Illini pushed their run to four. Set point came at 24-19, but the Buffs turned down three to bring the score to 24-22 and force a timeout. The Illini forced a fifth set with a kill at 25-22. DeLuzio ended the set with 24 digs, averaging six per set.
SET 5: The Buffs opened with a pair of kills from Clayton and Kuehl. Schneggenburger gave CU a 3-1 lead with a kill of her own. She backed it up at 4-2 to earn her 10th kill of the match. Cooney kept Illinois in it with all three kills and points of the set at 4-3. CU put together three-straight to take a 7-3 lead and force an Illinois timeout. CU followed with a block to earn an 8-3 lead at the midway point. Illinois put together four of five points to close it to 9-7. A big block from Kuehl and Ewert gave CU a 10-7 lead. The Illini put together three-straight to tie it at 10 and force a CU timeout. Kuehl gave the Buffs the slight lead out of the break, but a kill and ace gave Illinois the 12-11 lead. Clayton tied it up but Cooney took the lead back as the teams traded blows. Match point came off a block from Illinois at 14-12, forcing a CU timeout. Clayton fought off the first match point, then put down another to tie it up at 14. She finished off a third straight to flip the match point in CU's favor. Cooney survived to tie it but then followed with a service error. Illinois tied it up on a kill, but CU returned the favor with a Tabron kill. Collins sent one long to give CU the win at 18-16.
Head Coach Jesse Mahoney
That was a great win against a very physical and well-coached team. Credit to our players for their resiliency and response in the fifth set after giving up sets 3 and 4. Even when down in the fifth our side had a sense of calm and confidence that allowed them to make plays when it mattered. Once again Leah was a workhorse for us all match but I thought Brynna Deluzio was the best player on the floor tonight defending at a high level and keeping us in system in serve receive.
Claire Hoffman (UW) – MVP
Ella May Powell (UW)
Marin Grote (UW)
Leah Clayton (COLO)
Brynna DeLuzio (COLO)
Courtney Buzzerio (IOWA)