BOULDER - The University of Colorado volleyball team rallied to defeat the University of Kansas 3-2 at the Coors Events Center on Saturday night to win back-to-back Big 12 Conference matches for the first time since the 2008 season. Set scores were 25-23, 25-23, 13-25, 22-25, 15-13.
The win brings the Buffs' record to .500, 5-5 overall and 2-2 in the Big 12. Kansas is now 10-5 on the season, 1-3 in the conference.
The Buffs defeated Kansas State on Wednesday night at the CEC, also a match that went five sets. The last time CU came away with back-to-back league victories came against Texas Tech and Nebraska. The Buffs defeated TTU on Oct. 25, 2008 in Lubbock, Texas and followed that up with a win over No. 2 Nebraska on Oct. 29 at the CEC. This also marks the first time since 2006 that CU has won back-to-back home conference matches. That year the Buffs defeated Kansas (Sept. 23) and Texas A&M (Sept. 27).
"There is an identity that this team is forming and a sense of real pride in defending their home court," coach Liz Kritza said. "It is good to see those facets developing for a young squad as we work to climb that Big 12 ladder. As we build this program, the persistence to training hard and commitment to excellence will pay huge dividends."
The victory was hard fought for the Buffaloes as Kansas did not back down after falling behind 2-0 to CU to win the next two sets and force a fifth set tiebreaker.
"Credit to Kansas tonight, they simply would not break," Kritza said. "They are well coached and they were a formidable opponent that really pushed our young squad tonight to our limits."
Sophomore Kerra Schroeder has been leading the Buffs most of the season and tonight was no different as she hammered 21 kills in the victory. She added 11 digs, a pair of aces and one block assist while hitting a team-high .264. Junior Richi Bigelow also had a great night for the Buffs as she recorded her third double-double of the season with 14 kills and 15 digs. She also added an ace.
"Richi took a step forward tonight in accepting her role in this system and she had a much improved and complete performance tonight," Kritza said.
Freshman Nikki Lindow added 10 kills for the Buffs. Junior Anicia Santos and senior Rosie Steinhaus each recorded eight kills.
On defense, freshman Megan Beckwith recorded 12 digs and Elysse Richardson added 10. Alyssa Valentine picked up 13 for the Buffs on top of handing out 50 assists. At the net Steinhaus and Lindow had five block assists apiece to lead CU.
"This was a total team effort in that we had a few new faces on the court tonight, but the way every player accepts the challenge for the good of the team is a very bright sign for a successful future," Kritza said.
The first set was back and forth with neither team getting much of a lead as there were 13 ties and three lead changes. The score was tied at 23 when a kill from Steinhaus put the Buffs ahead by one. An attack error from the Jayhawks finished the set for CU (25-23). The stats were almost as even as the score with CU hitting .268 and KU hitting .267. Colorado notched 16 kills compared to 14 by the Jayhawks.
The Buffs used the momentum from the first set and got out to a 6-3 lead in the second, forcing KU to call a timeout. CU went on a 3-1 run following the timeout, causing KU to use its final timeout of the game (9-4). This time the Jayhawks were able to cut down on the CU lead, getting within three at 15-12 to force Kritza to call the Buffs' first timeout. KU took the first two points out of the break, but Colorado came back with a kill from Lindow. The Buffs took seven of the next 10 points to take their largest lead of the set at 23-17. KU took the next three points, but Schroeder answered with a kill to give CU set point. KU prolonged the game with a pair of kills and Kritza used CU's final timeout to calm the Buffs down. KU recorded another kill to get within one (24-23), but Schroeder finished the set with her ninth kill of the match.
KU took a 9-5 lead in the third set after stringing together a 7-0 run. Kritza called a timeout and CU took the next point off a kill from Bigelow. The Jayhawks answered back to take a 14-8 lead and increased it to 19-11 at which point the Buffs used their final timeout of the set. Kansas took the next three points to go up 22-11 and finished the set 25-13. Colorado was held to a -.044 hitting percentage while KU .209.
The Jayhawks got out to a fast start in the fourth set, taking a 7-5 lead. CU came back to tie the set at 9-9, but once again KU went ahead, taking a two-point lead at 15-13. The Buffs weren't going to give up and took the next three points to take their first lead of the set at 16-15, forcing the Jayhawks to take a timeout. From that point it was close with neither team taking more than two points in a row until KU a 23-21 lead. The Jayhawks would go on to finish the set 25-22. CU hit better in the set at .244, but the Jayhawks recorded a .317 attack percentage in the frame.
Kansas took a 6-3 lead to start the deciding fifth set, but the Buffs fought back to take the next three to even the score at 6. CU went up with a kill from Bigelow, but a pair of KU blocks put the lead back in the Jayhawks' hands at 8-7. After switching sides, CU gave up another point before Schroeder answered with a kill. CU tied it back up at 9, but the Jayhawks once again went up by a pair of points (11-9). Again the Buffs answered back and tied the set up at 12. Schroeder served up an ace to take the lead and a kill from Lindow gave CU match point. KU fought off the first match point, but Lindow put the final nail in the coffin with a kill to seal the victory.
"Again the crowd had a great impact on the match by providing energy and support for this team tonight," Kritza noted. "The youth of the community showed up in good numbers for the kids' clinic before the match and stayed to cheer on their favorite Buff players. They are an important part of building this program as well."
The Buffs finish their homestand on Wednesday, September 29 against Texas A&M. The Aggies are 8-5 overall, 2-1 in the Big 12. The match is slated to start at 6:30 p.m. at the CEC.
And don't forget to check out the latest news and highlights with coach Liz Kritza on This Week in Colorado Volleyball, exclusively on BuffsTV at CUBuffs.com/volleyball. New shows air every Tuesday.