As a new season looms over the Rocky Mountains, the No. 24 Colorado women’s volleyball team is most certainly not scared of its own shadow, but prepared to face the competition ahead. As one of nine other nationally ranked teams in the Pac-12 going into this season, the Buffaloes must look to new leadership on the court in the wake of outside hitter Taylor Simpson’s graduation as well as development in fresh recruits.
And, of course, the Buffs look to call themselves national champions, and to bring that title home for themselves, for returning 10-year coach Liz Kritza and for their organization.
The departure of big time CU volleyball sensation Taylor Simpson left a vacancy in the outside hitter position — an open space coach Kritza seems excited and confident in the filling.
“It’s nearly impossible to replace a player of her caliber and the abilities that she has to contribute with one other player,” Kritza said.
However, Kritza believes her team has been working hard in the offseason to share the load in the absence of Simpson. Kritza has looked toward senior Alexis Austin in particular to step up and play a huge role on the court and in the locker room this season. Austin, coming off a tremendous 2014 season with 303 total kills, has the athleticism and the power to deliver the hits game after game for the Buffs. Following Austin, Coach Kritza tells fans to keep their eye on sophomore Gabby Simpson.
“She’s done a lot of work in the offseason; she’s excited about playing a bigger role in that capacity,” said Kritza.
As the team’s mentality and drive to win continues to grow, so does their roster. Six new freshman players joined the 2015 squad: Zuri Smith, Taylor Joachim, Gabby Carta-Samuels, Adian Lea, Abbie D’Agosta and Naghede Abu, who Kritza believes to be an upcoming player to watch. Kritza said her six recruits have done a tremendous job transitioning from their previous high school positions to the new and more demanding roles of a college athlete.
Senior Nicole Edelman, who looks to show leadership this upcoming season, said that she knows what gets her teammates going, and her experience from being a senior helps her lead her team in tough situations. Edelman, coming off a fantastic 2014 season herself, might not be the tallest player, but she stands tall as a true captain and leader on the team.
The Buffs started off their season 2-1 with wins over Florida State and Oklahoma, but lost their opening match to San Diego Friday. Pac-12 play starts Sept 23, and until then Colorado will play about a dozen non-conference matches.
Contact CUI Sports Staff Writer Lizzi Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org.