Buffs Start Pac-12 Season
BOULDER – The University of Colorado women's volleyball enters the 2021 Pac-12 conference schedule this week with a matchup at Washington State Wednesday at 7 p.m. before hosting No.15 Utah Friday at 7 p.m.
No.24-ranked Colorado (9-0) finished the nonconference season undefeated for the first time in school history. The take on Washington State (6-4) in Pullman, a place they haven't won in since 2016. The Buffs follow that up with a top-25 matchup with No.15 Utah (7-2) in Boulder at 7 p.m.
Colorado is one of nine teams left in the NCAA undefeated and the only team in the Pac-12 Conference. The Buffs have a balanced team with the 18th-best mark in the NCAA in blocks per set at 2.78 and the 21st best offensive in kills per set at 14.00. Leah Clayton leads the team with 4.78 kills per set which is good for 33rd in the nation, while Jenna Ewert is 48th in the nation in assists per set at 10.38.
The Buffs are coming off their first Golden Spike Trophy, having swept CSU in Moby Arena Saturday afternoon. The team has won seven of its nine first sets, eight second sets and has held opponents under .200 hitting in two-thirds of their matches.
Friday's matchup marks the first time in exactly four years that the CU Events Center will host a top-25 Pac-12 matchup. Four years ago to the date, No.25 CU took No.4 Stanford to the edge, losing a five-set match to the Cardinal after flipping 29-27 sets in the third and fourth sets before Stanford finished the fifth 15-12.
SCOUTING THE COUGARS
The two teams are 10-10 in their history against one another, with Washington State winning eight of the last nine meetings. The Cougars had one of the hardest starts to the season, losing to South Carolina in a five-set match before losing to No.9 Pittsburgh in four sets, No.8 Purdue in three and to UNLV in four sets. They have since won six-straight matches with five-straight sweeps against Long Beach State, Northern Iowa, Gonzaga, UC Santa Barbara and VCU. They played a second match against UC Santa Barbara, winning that in four sets.
Washington State is top-100 in the NCAA in hitting percentage (57th), kills per set (77th) and assists per set (84th). Pia Timmer is the defending Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, while Hannah Pukis is second in the conference in assists per set at 10.60. Former National Freshman of the Year Magda Jehlarova is 33rd in the nation in hitting percentage at .412 and will be a major focus to the CU defense.
SCOUTING THE UTES
The Utes are returning the Pac-12 Player of the Year Dani Drews who also won AVCA National Player of the Week honors a week ago. She helped lead Utah to seven straight wins to start the season including defeating No.22 San Diego at home in four sets and then going into Lincoln and defeated then-ranked No.3 Nebraska in five sets. Since the Utes monumental win over the Huskers on Saturday, Sept. 11, the team suffered losses at Boise State in four sets and against No.15 BYU in a sweep in Provo.
Utah is 12th in the nation in blocks per set at 2.85, 33rd in kills per set, 43rd in assists per set, 55th in hitting percentage and 64th in aces per set. Drews is the team's best attacker, ranking 15th in the nation in attacks per set at 12.12 and eighth in the nation in kills per set at 4.79. She leads the Pac-12 in points, attacks and kills this season. She along with Madelyn Robinson and Megan Yett each have a dozen service aces this season as four members of the team average .32 aces per set or greater.