The University of Colorado women’s volleyball team bumped, set and spiked their way to a perfect 3-0 weekend of play in Boulder. The Buffs defeated Chicago State, New Orleans and in-state rival Colorado State at the Omni Invitational, and will cruise into conference play with some momentum.
The No. 18 Buffs improved to 8-2 overall after a productive weekend; Colorado also kept their undefeated home streak alive. CU is 4-0 in home matches, making head coach Jesse Mahoney’s first season as a Buff picture perfect in Boulder. With the Pac-12 season to start Wednesday, Colorado must be prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.
“This part of our season’s over, the pre-season, I think we tested ourselves playing a lot of really, really high level opponents, and I think playing some high level volleyball,” said Mahoney. “The Pac-12 is gonna have nine or 10 teams that are as good, or better, than the last several we faced in the pre-season.”
CU defeated Chicago State Friday night in three straight sets 25-15, 25-14, and 25-14. Colorado’s victory was headed by newcomer, sophomore outside hitter Alexa Smith. Smith’s 10 kills helped to propel the Buffs to victory. Junior right side hitter Gabby Simpson followed closely behind her teammate, recording nine kills on 12 total attacks.
The Buffs also had a big day from behind the line. Colorado recorded nine serving aces in the quick three set match.
The Cougars struggled to gain any ground with the Buffs. Chicago State recorded 20 kills on 89 total attacks, giving them a dismal team hitting percentage of .011.
Colorado opened Saturday’s double-header with a sweep over New Orleans. The Pelicans were shown no mercy and quickly fell to their Buffalo opponents 25-18, 25-13, and 25-12.
CU’s block proved too difficult for New Orleans. NOU committed 32 attack errors on 100 swings and only 25 kills. The Buffs managed 11 total team blocks, seven of which were assisted by sophomore middle Naghede Abu.
There was no one offensive standout for the Buffs, as five players recorded five or more kills. The match came down to proficiency on both offense and defense, as CU committed less errors to sweep the Pelicans in three sets.
Despite defeating two teams in three straight sets earlier in the weekend, it was Saturday night’s primetime matchup that brought Colorado its glory. CU defeated Colorado State in 4 sets, 25-22, 25-20, 23-25, and 25-21, for the first time since 2002.
CU came out with a strong first set in this iteration of the Rocky Mountain Showdown. The Buffs recorded 19 kills, led, once again, by Smith and Simpson. The Buffs proficiency at the net was tested at the net. The Rams’ block proved to be more difficult than anticipated. By the end of the first set, Colorado State had recorded five total team blocks, Colorado had zero.
The second set of the match was clearly Buffalo dominated. CU added another 16 kills to their total. Junior outside hitter Stephanie Shadley had a huge set for Colorado. Both Shadley and Smith had six more kills a piece for the home team.
The Buffs also managed to gain some control over the CSU block, holding them to just two following a brutal first set.
Colorado’s momentum slowed as the Rams took their first lead of the match in the third set. A long rally between the Colorado teams resulted in CU’s one and only loss of the match.
In the third, CSU managed a more proficient game at the net. This proved a test for the Colorado defense. CU’s block put up a strong front against the opponent, adding three more team blocks to the stats. The blocking duo of Naghede and redshirt junior Joslyn Hayes slowed the momentum of the Rams, but it was not enough.
Senior libero Cierra Simpson had her work cut out for her in the back court, but struggled to contain the offense. A set riddled with sloppy play and various errors was quickly pushed aside as the Buffs looked to set four.
The fourth and final set of the match ended with a Buffalo victory. CSU’s leftover momentum from the third didn’t last, and the Rams failed to build a strong offensive game at the net, falling short of forcing a fifth set.
Smith finished out her night with 21 kills on 46 attacks. She committed only three errors giving her a swing percentage of .591. Shadley also closed out her night with 13 kills on 36 attacks.
Colorado State exposed some weaknesses in the Buffs. Colorado will need to learn how to control the block from the get go. CU’s slowed momentum in the third set can be blamed on the brick wall that was set up on the other side of the net.
Colorado’s victory over the Rams carries more importance than most non-conference games. This is the first time since 2002 that CU has defeated CSU. The Buffs have continually fallen to Colorado State, who leads the all-time series 23-12, their most recent loss coming during the 2010-2011 season.
This was also a conflicting victory for first-year head coach Jesse Mahoney. Mahoney served as an assistant head coach at Colorado State for seven years, helping the Rams to seven straight NCAA appearances and a 162-51 record.
But Coach Mahoney’s past employment didn’t seem to affect his team or his willingness to win.
“I like to win every match regardless of who’s on the other side,” said Mahoney. “It’s gratifying to see these players get rewarded for working as hard as they have for the last month and a half or so.”
Colorado is excited to open their conference play in Boulder this Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. against Utah.
“This is the beginning of the Pac-12, this is the beginning of the fresh start to the season,” said Smith.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Olivia Butrymovich at email@example.com.