Buffs Top Rams, Extend Perfect Start To 8-0
BOULDER – The Colorado Buffaloes volleyball team extended its school-record undefeated start to the season to eight matches, taking down rival Colorado State 3-1 (22-25, 25-18, 25-19, 25-20) Thursday night here at the CU Events Center.
The Buffs improve to a perfect 8-0 on the season, the best start in school history and give the Buffs their longest win streak in the Jesse Mahoney-era. It is, in fact, CU's longest win streak since the 2014 season.
Alexia Kuehl was a dominating presence in the middle, coming up with big play after big play, finishing with 12 kills while hitting .571 and adding a team-high seven blocks. Maya Tabron and Leah Clayton both added 12 kills alongside Kuehl while Meegan Hart had 11 kills and six blocks. Jenna Ewert directed the offense efficiently with 47 assists and added 19 digs while Brynna DeLuzio led the way with 26 digs of her own, just three off her career high set earlier this season.
As a team, the Buffs had 56 kills while hitting .279 offensively and 66 digs and 14 blocks on the defensive side.
The Buffs and Rams get a short one-day break before the second meeting in this two-match series, set for Saturday at 1 p.m. MT in Fort Collins.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The first set was a back-and-forth affair that saw ties at each point through 5-5 before the Rams took an early 7-5 advantage. The Rams wouldn't give up their lead at any point, but the set remained even throughout, with the Buffs pulling within one at 11-10 and 13-12 before the Rams scored successive points to make it 15-12. CSU would pull ahead by as many as six points at 22-16 before the Buffs went on a 5-0 run to pull within one at 22-21. DeLuzio served that run and Hart had two blocks. The two traded side outs (23-22 Rams) before CSU closed it out 25-22. Jill Schneggenburger led the way in the first set with five kills while hitting .625, and Kuehl added four kills hitting .400. Hart had four blocks in the set.
The Buffs took the end-of-first-set momentum into the second and after it was tied 5-5 like the first, the Buffs took control and never let up. CU scored the next two points to take a 7-5 lead and then went on another 5-0 run to push the advantage to 13-7. The Rams had a mini run to bring it within three points at 16-13, but the Buffs quickly rebounded, pushing the lead as high as eight points before closing out the Rams, 25-18. Clayton rebounded an uncharacteristic first set with five kills in the second as the Buffs hit .316 as a team and had 21 digs in the set, led by DeLuzio, who had 11 through two sets.
The Buffs jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead in the third set before CSU matched that to again see a 5-5 tie for the third straight set. After a tie at 8-8, the Buffs went on a 7-2 run to take a 15-10 lead. The Rams would cut the lead to two points at 17-15, but that's as close as it would get. The Buffs won a key long rally to take a 22-18 lead and closed out the set 25-19 with kill from Tabron. The Buffs again hit well in the set (.364) and had another 18 digs as DeLuzio added seven in the set and Ewert six.
The fourth set was again a back-and-forth effort, but neither team could take an advantage until … The set saw 11 ties through 18-18 before the Buffs took a 21-18 lead off an emphatic Clayton kill and a huge solo block from Kuehl to force a CSU timeout. Kuehl then got a solid kill and another block to push the lead to 23-19 and the Buffs closed out the set and match with another solid kill from Tabron. The Buffs hit .250 in the final set with another 16 digs in a solid all-around effort.
Head Coach Jesse Mahoney
On The Match
Obviously a really, really good match. I thought it was a high level match on both sides. We were pretty high error in the first set. I'm not sure exactly what that is but we only got one kill out of our left sides in that first set and that was really the difference there. I think as Leah and Maya settled down a little bit and started making better choices and scoring on the left. We stabilized our offense at that point and we were able to point score a little bit better. I haven't looked at the stats I should do that more often but it felt like we spread the offense around a lot, that's a testament to how in system we were passing and then Jenna making really good decisions. At the end of that fourth set Alexia made play after play after play, block, block, block, kill, and really put that set out of reach. Really good match, they're going to be a tough team in Fort Collins. We've got to get healthy, rested and ready to go for Saturday.
On The Rivalry
I'm not sure, we have to sell it as a rivalry, that's a really good team over there that's been in 20-30 straight NCAA Tournaments. We lost them in 2019 so if I have to get them amped up for that, it doesn't make sense. We want bragging rights in the state. We love playing good teams like Jenna mentioned we're going to play great teams. The rest of the way including this team and Fort Collins. Tom and I have a really good relationship, but we both want to beat each other.
On Playing In Moby Saturday
I've been in that gym a bunch of times and they have a great fan base, and that fan base brings a lot of energy to the player so I know they're going to be amped. They're not going to like losing this match and this is going to be their biggest match of the season, I think. They're going to be ready to go. Last time we were there we had a much younger team, we had a lot of freshmen on the floor. We didn't manage that, as well as we could. The nice thing about our team this year, Alexia is a freshman in her third year. We have fourth, fifth, sixth year kids out on the floor so I don't think that's going to be as much of an issue for us. We're going to have to match their intensity early, and then kind of get to playing on our level for the rest of the match.
On The Match
I think that just goes to us warming up in the first set and we shouldn't do that, but once we got into rhythm I think everything became a little more steady and we knew what to expect. We knew what to expect from ourselves, so I think that made it easier for me to spread the offense out and people started trusting themselves to put the ball away and just kind of run everything down and do our best.
On Being Ranked
I would say for me, I can't speak for the rest of the team, but it doesn't really change anything for me. I mean we've been in this position before. We've had a good preseason and it's a different story when you get into conference. Your bodies are a little more worn out and you're playing multiple Top-25 teams for the rest of the season. Doesn't change much for me I think it just puts in my mind to get more in rhythm and get more comfortable before we get into conference.
On The Energy Of The Match
I think for us we had a lot of energy. Last time we played them in the Golden Spike Tournament a couple years ago we lost. It's been a couple years, fire and competition settles a little bit during that time but they're always going to be our rivals so we went to this match and we were just fired up. We were like let's go, let's play our absolute best we can play let's give it to the crowd that showed up tonight and let's bring that energy over when we go over to Fort Collins on Saturday.
On Maintaining Momentum
Yeah I think it's staying consistent and like when you asked if having a target on our back changed anything it doesn't. We've got to keep getting better every time we step into the gym.
On Her Play
It always starts with the pass and then of course Jenna, so obviously I can't do it without them and we were just doing really well. The energy was getting me hyped and I just wanted to swing.
On The Crowd
It's a lot of fun. I like being able to look over to the crowd and just see everyone getting excited and it's nice to have the band back and just have people who come to watch and who are excited to see you play.
On Maintaining Momentum
I think it's just always just focusing in on what we have to do. We come in with a plan and just focusing on doing that and executing, and just keeping our energy up is how we go into it.