BOULDER - Despite playing one of its best matches of the season, the University of Colorado volleyball team was unable to upset the No. 5 Nebraska Huskers on Saturday night at the Coors Events Center, falling 25-21, 25-20, 25-17.
Nebraska improved to an overall record of 24-2 and 16-1 in the conference. The Buffs (6-17) fell to 3-14 in the Big 12 with the loss.
CU had upset the Huskers twice in the last five years at the CEC and for awhile it looked like that would be a possibility again since the Buffs were keeping up with NU in the first two sets. This was the last time the two teams would face each other as members of the Big 12 Conference as the Huskers are joining the Big Ten Conference and the Buffs will join the Pac-12 next season.
"The fight that this team showed tonight is praiseworthy," coach Liz Kritza said. "Although we always want the results to fall in the win column, we can use matches like this as a measuring stick for the development of this program. We were able to play point for point and press a few leads against a top-5 team. With our respective youth, that bodes well for the future."
Kerra Schroeder recorded a match-high 14 kills in the effort. She also hit a team-high .429 with just two errors on 28 attacks. She added on the defensive side of the ball as well, picking up 11 digs.
"Kerra answered the bell in her position with a very aggressive and efficient hitting performance," Kritza said. "She knows that her all around play is important to the success of this team and she made some strides tonight in her own development. This will spur her to seek even greater improvement as we progress with the season."
Richi Bigelow added eight kills for CU. Anicia Santos and Rosie Steinhaus each added six kills and Nikki Lindow totaled five. Alyssa Valentine handed out 35 assists and directed the Buffs to a team hitting percentage of .239. Colorado recorded 40 kills with 14 errors on 109 tries.
"I feel like that's us," Schroeder added. "I feel like sometimes we just don't show it, and that's what we need to work on. That right there is our team; going for everything and almost taking out top teams in the nation. Every single point was a struggle for them too, you could see."
Megan Beckwith turned in a good performance with 12 of CU's 42 digs. Michelle Miller had eight digs and Bigelow added seven.
"I think we definitely competed well," Beckwith said. "I thought we kept the pressure on them a lot, which was one of our main goals. It was to just keep pushing and keep pushing until we got a good connection, and I thought we had a really good fight tonight."
Lindsey Licht hit a match-high 13 kills for Nebraska and Brooke Delano added 11. The Huskers hit .321 in the match with 50 kills and 15 errors on 109 attacks.
Colorado got on the board early in the first set, taking the first five points. The Buffs continued to play well and held the lead at 13-11. It was at that point that the Huskers took three straight points to take a 14-13 lead. CU came back to even the score at 14, but NU answered back with three more points to take a 17-15 advantage. The Buffs hung in there but couldn't make up the ground and fell 25-21. CU recorded a .278 attack percentage with 14 kills and four errors on 36 swings and held Nebraska to a .244 attack percentage. The Huskers had 17 kills with seven errors on 41 attacks.
The second set was a very close game in the beginning with 12 ties and five lead changes. The Buffs took a 14-13 lead, but then the Huskers would take the next two points and would go on to take the set 25-20. Once again CU hit .278 with 14 kills and 14 errors on 36 swings. This time, however, the Huskers recorded a .378 hitting percentage with 19 kills and five errors on 37 attacks.
Nebraska took a 7-3 lead in the third set and would hold on to win the set 25-17. CU tried to stay in it, but just didn't have enough left in the tank after the first two sets. CU hit just .162 with 12 kills and six errors on 37 attacks, while the Huskers attacked at a .355 clip with 14 kills and three errors on 31 swings.
The performance was a great test of character for the Buffs as they had suffered a tough road loss to Oklahoma earlier in the week. This effort showed that CU was able to bounce back and will fight the rest of the season.
"Coming off a tough loss on the road earlier this week, the challenge we faced to get this team to bounce back was great," Kritza said. "Credit to my assistant coach, Tom Hogan, who led the way to refocusing this group to get back to playing within our system. Now we must take this and build on it as we continue to push through the final stages of conference play."
The Buffs have a quick turn-around for their next match as they travel to face No. 14 Iowa State on Tuesday, November 16. The contest will be played at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa with a match time of 6 p.m. (MT).
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.