BOULDER - The University of Colorado volleyball team gave Cal everything it had on Saturday night but it wasn't enough as the Buffs dropped a tough five-set match (23-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-11, 15-8) to the Bears at the Coors Events Center.
The Buffs are now 11-3 this season (1-1 in the Pac-12), while the Bears improved to 7-5 overall (1-1 in the Pac-12).
Alexis Austin had a career-high 17 kills in the effort and Neira Ortiz Ruiz had 12 kills to record her fifth-straight match with double-digit kills.
Errors proved costly for the Buffs who recorded 33 hitting errors and seven service errors to Cal's 18 hitting errors and eight service errors. The Bears recorded 68 kills while Colorado had 61. Cal also out-hit the Buffs .338-.167. The Buffs hit well in the first and third sets, recording .351 and .316 hitting efficiencies. They hit .108 in the second, -.059 in the fourth and .045 in the fifth.
"A general rule of thumb in volleyball is that when you're out-hitting your team by 100 points, you're going to win," coach Liz Kritza said. "That was the case for us on Wednesday night, but tonight, we simply weren't keeping our scoring on pace with theirs. After the first two sets, we were dead even, pretty much. In points scored, I think we were 20 each, and then they were pulling away and being able to roll through their side-out rotations faster than we were able to roll through ours."
Prior to tonight's match, the Buffs have been 4-0 in five-set matches, although all four of those were non-conference opponents. According to Austin, the difference was the fact that the Bears were "still pushing and trying to fight."
Defensively the Buffs had 48 digs compared to Cal's 57. Elysse Richardson led CU with 10 digs and Michelle Miller and Emily Alexis each added nine digs.
"I know that we have all the confidence in the world and all the belief in each other, and one thing I know to be true about this team is that we don't fracture," Kritza said. "With our backs against the wall, this group does not fall apart. We draw everybody in and know that no matter what, we are going to do this thing together."
Cal got out to a quick start in the first set, going up 11-6 before the Buffs called their first timeout. Out of the timeout, CU put together a 7-3 run to tie the frame at 14-14. The Buffs took the lead at 17-16 and went up by two points at 20-18 which included a pair of kills from Austin, forcing the Bears to take a timeout. The Buffs kept the pressure on and went up 23-21, causing Cal to take its final timeout of the game. CU ended the set four points later at 25-23.
The second set was also a close one and was tied midway through at 14-14. Cal went up 20-17, but CU came back to even the score again at 21-21. The Bears took the next two points, but Ortiz Ruiz answered with a kill for the Buffs before Cal closed the set 25-22.
The Bears took an 8-3 lead to start the third set, forcing Kritza to use a timeout early. The timeout worked and CU came back to tie the game at 10-10 with a 7-2 run. Cal put together an 8-5 run after the timeout to take a three-point advantage at 18-15. Yet again the Buffs battled and this time they took a 20-19 lead and extended it to 22-20 to force the Bears to spend their final timeout. The Buffs didn't let the timeout slow them down and they finished the set 25-23.
Cal had an 11-6 lead in the fourth set before the Buffs used their first timeout. After the break, the Bears added six straight points to take a 17-6 advantage. The Buffs tried but were unable to get back in the set and Cal finished it 25-11.
The Bears took a 5-1 lead to start the final set before CU took a timeout to slow down the Bears' attack. The timeout worked briefly as the Buffs came back to get within a point at 4-5. Cal added to its score with a 5-1 run to take a 10-5 lead in the race to 15. Unfortunately the Buffs didn't have an answer to Cal's attack and fell 15-8 in the final set.
The Buffs hit the next weekend for a pair of matches in the Pacific Northwest. CU takes on Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore. on Friday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. MT and will face No. 8 Oregon in Eugene, Ore. on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. MT.