The University of Colorado volleyball team finally had the opportunity to hit the court Friday night against the California Golden Bears at the CU Events Center following almost two weeks off. After a pair of games set to take place at Stanford last week was canceled due to Santa Clara County COVID-19 restrictions, the undefeated Buffs were able to retain their second spot in the Pac-12 standings and move to 3-0 on the season. Although the Bears came into the match last in the Pac-12 standings at 0-4, they didn’t play like it. Cal took Colorado to five challenging sets but the Buffs demonstrated why they remain undefeated in 2021.
“Cal was 0-4 coming in but we knew they had a lot of talent and the young players out there,” said head coach Jesse Mahoney. “The one thing they have done during the season is they are different each time they come out.”
The first match looked strong at times, and sloppy at others. Multiple ball handling errors and simple miscommunication gifted the Bears a few points. Numerous rallies went the Bears’ way, resulting in their ultimate victory. Throughout a close first set, the Bears pulled away for good by a score of 26-24.
Set two had a powerful start with an immediate kill by sophomore middle blocker Sterling Parker. The Buffs looked much more relaxed and comfortable on their home court. Several huge blocks by redshirt freshman middle blocker Alexia Kuehl helped CU gain an early lead. The energy and effort, as well as a lack of errors, led the Buffs to an overwhelming 25-15 victory in set two.
In set three, it was quickly clear that the Golden Bears were on the ropes. With attack errors, service errors and plenty of out-of-bounds shots, Cal fell into a hole that they were unable to crawl out of. Several huge kills pushed the Buffs to an enormous 25-10 set three win.
Similar to the first set of the match, the Buffs and Bears both made simple mistakes in set four, including multiple service errors on each side. Once again, the Buffs appeared to be in a drought. Poor communication and a lack of control on attacks contributed to forcing the deciding fifth set. Despite a near comeback, the Bears took the fourth set, 25-22.
After losing the first point of the fifth and final set, a huge kill by sophomore outside hitter Elissa Alcantara, and another by Kuehl, jumpstarted the team’s liveliness. The Buffs began to regain control of the match using their length from their biggest hitters. The energy throughout the team, especially along the sidelines was electric, helping lead them to a 15-6 set win and a 3-2 match victory.
Attack errors proved fatal for the Golden Bears, who produced 26 compared to the Buffs’ 11. Fortunately for the Buffs, a few ball handling and net violation errors were not critical.
Sophomore middle blocker Sterling Parker had a fantastic game for the Buffs. Not only did she top her season-high in kills with 14, but produced 2 blocks as well. She also finished second on the team with 15 points.
Both sophomore outside hitter Elissa Alcantara (14 kills) and grad transfer middle blocker Rachael Fara (13 kills) chipped in with their impressive length to help lead the Buffs to victory.
“I am super excited with the win,” Parker said. “I think we fought really hard. I am super pumped up right now.”
Junior setter Jenna Ewert proved her versatility early on with six kills, passing her previous season-high of one kill. As usual, she produced a team-leading and season-high 46 assists on top of the kills.
“There are definitely a lot of great players that I have played with and am playing with now- Jenna specifically is awesome having someone with such high volleyball IQ right next to you,” said Fara, who led CU with 15.5 points.
The Buffs will be looking for the sweep against Cal on Sunday at the CU Events Center at noon.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Logan Standard at email@example.com.
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