BOULDER- The University of Colorado volleyball team swept Washington State (25-17, 25-17, 29-27) to earn its second Pac-12 Conference win of the season on Friday night at the Coors Events Center.
"It's wonderful," freshman outside hitter Alexis Austin said after the win. "It just shows how much we've been working to get here and what we have accomplished. Hopefully, we keep it going and keep working hard."
The Buffs are now 12-5 on the season, 2-3 in the Pac-12. The 12 wins double CU's win total from last season (6-24) and the two conference victories double the 1-21 record from last season. WSU fell to 10-7 overall and is winless in the Pac-12 (0-5).
"I'm very proud of this group because we had a tough road-swing last week (losing to Oregon State and Oregon)," coach Liz Kritza said. "We're in a really good place right now."
Freshman Alexis Austin recorded a match-high 16 kills and sophomore Kelsey English added 13 in the victory. English also hit a blazing .765 in the match with no errors on 17 swings, which is the 12th best attack percentage in CU history.
"[Kelsey] has no idea (about her hitting)," Kritza said. "That's the best part, that she is humble. Kelsey actually had some tough times in practice this week. It is so rewarding as a coach to see a player have the maturity to not just correct what she's doing to fix her piece of the puzzle, but then some. To come away with the performance today after having some struggles early on is a huge testament to the type of kid she is and how aggressive she is when the chips are down. I really couldn't ask for more. I think it's a highlight of our match with 13 kills and 17 swings; you don't ask for much more from the middle. She did a great job tonight."
The Buffs hit .312 as a team with 51 kills and 16 errors on 112 attacks and held the Cougars to just .079 (24 kills and 17 errors on 89 attacks). Redshirt sophomore Ana Pantovic hit .438 with nine kills and Austin recorded a .289 hitting percentage. Freshman Nicole Edelman added five kills of her own while handing out 38 assists in the match.
CU recorded 45 digs in the win compared to WSU's 29. Freshman Chelsey Keoho led the match with 12. Senior Michelle Miller added eight digs and Edelman came up with six. The Buffs posted 8.0 team blocks. English accounted for four block assists and Austin, Edelman and Nikki Lindow each posted three block assists.
The Buffs got out to a slow start in the first set and trailed 12-6. They took the following three points before allowing the Cougars to take two more to lead 14-9. CU won the next point on a kill from Austin and added 11 more on Lindow's serve, which included three aces, to take a commanding 21-14 lead. The Buffs were able to hang on and finish out the set 25-17.
"Nikki Lindow went on a huge serving run." Kritza said. "That kid got some guts and she went after it. It was a 15-2 run and she served 12 balls. That's an unheard of amount in a set. We talk about a lot with our team about preparing to play these Pac-12 teams. Every team that we are going play has great offense, so the tougher we serve, the easier our job is on defense. It's something we have gone over and over. I give credit to Nikki. She really did change the momentum. She has been working on that serve for awhile and it couldn't have come out at a better time in my opinion, so I'm happy that she was able to do that for us."
CU took the early lead in the second set, going up 7-2. The Buffs continued to add to their lead and went up 16-8 with a pair of aces from Richardson. The Cougars tried to chip away at CU's lead and took the next four straight points, but the Buffs sided-out and held off the Cougar's attack. The score was 22-17 when the Buffs recorded three straight to finish the set.
Colorado was up 9-7 against the Cougars in the third set when WSU took its first timeout of the set. The Cougars closed the gap to one point at 15-14, but the Buffs sided-out and took the next three points (18-14), forcing WSU to use its final timeout of the set. Out of the break the Cougars went on an 8-2 run to take a 22-20 lead. The Buffs had their backs to the wall when WSU had set point at 24-22, but they kept fighting and held off five set points before winning 29-27.
Colorado continues its homestand on Sunday with a match against No. 2 Washington at 3 p.m.
"I think our heads are all filled with good thoughts right now and we're going to do some good things this weekend.," English said. "[Washington] is a tougher team, but we really stuck to the tendencies and worked on the scouting and stuff, so if we keep doing that, we'll know exactly what they're going to do on their side, and we'll know what to do on ours."
The match will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network. Tickets can be purchased for $5 (adults) and $2 (13 and under) for each match at CUBuffs.com or by calling 303-49-BUFFS.