BOULDER — The University of Colorado volleyball team remained undefeated in Pac-12 Conference play at home after taking down Arizona State 3-1 (25-22, 17-25, 26-24, 25-23) on Sunday afternoon at the Coors Events Center.
“We will never overlook a win in a league as tough as ours, but it is two-fold for us,” coach Liz Kritza said. “We are going for the win, of course, but we are always progressing and while there were some less than sharp plays we had at points during this match, I like that I have a very flexible team. To be able to make the changes that I made as a coach, to have players that can respond and understand what we are trying to do strategically, I think that is going to serve us very well as we go deeper in the season and in the postseason. The numbers have improved there, everybody on our bench, everybody in our locker room knows we can do better and we are going to the next time around.”
The Buffs are now 14-6 overall and are 6-4 in the Pac-12, which includes a 5-0 record at home. ASU is now 13-9 overall, 2-8 in the conference.
“It feels really awesome,” senior Kerra Schroeder said. “This has never happened before, so it feels really good. I think that scrapping tonight was our main key. We were not playing as strong as we could and as well as we could, but at the same time, it showed a lot of heart that we could keep going and finally, keep our win streak at home, so that definitely was huge.”
Taylor Simpson led the team with 11 kills and Nikki Lindow added 10 kills in the win. Alexis Austin hammered nine kills and Schroeder recorded eight kills for the Buffs. CU recorded 49 kills in the match and hit .099. Nicole Edelman handed out 42 assists and added four kills herself.
Defensively, the Buffs picked up 74 digs. Cierra Simpson led the way with 20 digs, her second time this season with 20 or more digs. Taylor Simpson earned her seventh double-double of the season with 19 digs and Edelman added 15 digs. Elysse Richardson also had double-digit digs with 10.
CU also did well at the net with 13.0 team blocks. Lindow led the way with eight block assists and Kelsey English had four block assists. Edelman, Schroeder, Austin and Joslyn Hayes each recorded three block assists for the Buffs.
“To be able to have players that have multiple roles and perform at a high level, I think can only help us, and I think it was good tonight when things got tough, we had different versions of our team out there, but regardless of who was out there, they were fighting to keep the level high,” Kritza said. “We did not execute it perfectly, but at this point in the season, we are right at the turn of conference play, and I think we are taking away from these tough matches what we need to, to be able to do what we want to do for the rest of the Pac-12 season.”
The Sun Devils hit .132 in the match with 47 kills. They were led by Macey Gardner’s 14 kills and BreElle Bailey had 13 kills. ASU picked up 80 digs and 13.0 team blocks.
The first set was a close one with neither team getting a big lead the entire game. CU led 15-13 at the media timeout, but the two teams continued to battle. ASU had the advantage at 21-20, which made the Buffs take their first timeout of the set. CU took the first two points after the break, which forced ASU to take a timeout of its own (22-21). The Sun Devils took the first point out of their timeout, but the Buffs finished the set with the next three points (25-22).
The second set was just like the first as it was very close. ASU had a 15-13 lead this time at the media break and added three more points to their score to lead 17-14 before the Buffs called a timeout. After the break, the Sun Devils increased their advantage to 23-16 before CU called its final timeout of the set. The Buffs fought but were not able to rally back and fell 25-17.
The Sun Devils took an 11-7 lead in the third set before the Buffs rallied back within one point at 14-13. ASU again pulled away from the Buffs with a 4-0 run to take an 18-14 lead. CU went to work and recorded a 6-2 run to even the set at 20-20. The Buffs continued to press ASU and went up 24-22. The Sun Devils fought off the first two set points, but the Buffs finished the set with a kill from Lindow and a block from Austin and English (26-24).
ASU took an early 8-2 lead in the fourth set, after which the Buffs recorded an 8-1 run to take a 10-9 advantage. The set remained very close until the very end. The score was 21-21, and the teams traded off the next four points (23-23). The Buffs took the following point to get to match point on a kill from Schroeder and finished the set on the following point with a kill from Taylor Simpson (25-23).
“I know my team, I trust my team,” Kritza said. “I just have to remind them, gently, sometimes not so gently, other times, that they are a higher level group. I have to tell them to buckle down and focus on the things that we can control, and we did that. I challenged them in one of the huddles, and they came out with a five point run to equalize the match and brought us to the same point as ASU, and then we were able to play point for point, and then we were able to run away with it for a little bit, but I never have any doubt when I look in that huddle.”
The Buffs will hit the road for their next two matches. They will face Washington State on Friday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. MT and No. 3 Washington on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 4 p.m. Both matches will be televised regionally on the Pac-12 Networks.
“We are going to have formidable opponents,” Kritza said. “I am quite sure Washington is excited to see us again and we are excited to see them because we want to keep testing ourselves against the best in the country. We have lofty goals and the only way that you prove it to yourselves and everyone else is to keep going at the top teams in the league, and that means in volleyball, the top teams in our league are also the top teams in the country. Washington State has been doing great at home. They are a tough team, and they are probably excited to see us as well. This is the most important step for our program right now, is to go out on the road and win some and not just one.”