SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - Despite a strong start to the match, the University of Colorado volleyball team was unable to come away with the win against Utah, falling 3-1 (14-25, 25-16, 25-23, 25-16) here at Crimson Court on Friday night.
"Our scoring in the first set was one of the best performances we have had all year, but we simply did not sustain long enough to come away with the victory tonight," coach Liz Kritza said.
The Buffs finish the 2012 campaign with a 14-18 overall record and were 4-16 in the Pac-12 Conference. Utah closed its season with a 14-19 record and was 5-15 in the Pac-12.
Alexis Austin led Colorado tonight with 14 kills and hit .316 with just two errors on 38 attacks. Neira Ortiz Ruiz also hammered double-digit kills with 11 to hit .286.
"Ortiz Ruiz has improved greatly this year and from what I can tell is already motivated to continue in the gym to continue developing so in subsequent seasons we will be playing into the postseason, a goal for this program for next season," Kritza said.
Kelsey English had the best CU attack percentage at .545 with eight kills and two errors on 11 attacks. She became the second Buff this season to record at least five service aces in a single match. Her five in the match was a career-high, besting her previous total of three last season. Nicole Edelman had six aces earlier this season against Howard on Sept. 8. Prior to this season, no Buff had recorded five or more aces since 2007.
"Kelsey English had one of her best matches this season, and did what we needed her to, especially behind the serving line," Kritza said. "We look for her continued improvement as we move forward and start preparing for our next season."
Defensively the Buffs were led by Jessica Aschenbrenner who picked up 12 digs in the effort. Chelsey Keoho and Edelman each recorded nine digs and Austin added seven. In total the Buffs had 51 digs, one more than the Utes (50).
"Aschenbrenner came off the bench and provided some strong defense for us tonight and over the last part of this season, she has maintained her composure to improve her own individual level of play," Kritza said. "The offseason will be an important time for her as she is going into her senior season."
The first set started out close and was tied 6-6 before the Buffs regained the lead on the following point with a kill from English. After a kill from Ortiz Ruiz, Utah took the next point to bring the score to 8-7. CU pulled away from the Utes at that point with a 7-0 run that included four consecutive service aces from English, as well as two kills from Ortiz Ruiz and a Utah attack error.
The Buffs continued to attack and increased the lead to 20-11, at which point Utah used a timeout. CU was able to close out the set with a 5-3 run (25-14). The Buffs hit .522 and had 12 kills in game without a single error on 23 attacks. Ortiz Ruiz had six kills in the frame and hit .667. CU held Utah to just a .156 hitting efficiency.
Utah took a quick 6-2 lead to start the second set and increased it to 13-6. The Buffs continued to work and got within six points at 16-10, but the Utes were hitting .517 and held CU to .300 to take the game 25-16.
The third set was another close one and was tied 16-16 before the Buffs would take their first lead with at 17-16. CU added three more points in a four point span to take a 20-17 lead, forcing the Utes to call a timeout. UU took the next two points out of the break, but CU answered with a 3-1 run to go up 23-20. After another UU timeout, the Utes put together a 5-0 run to finish the set 25-20.
CU was up 4-3 in set four before the Utes put together a 6-0 run to take a 9-4 lead. Utah maintained a five-point advantage throughout the set and increased it to 18-11. Kritza used a timeout but the deficit was too great and despite a great effort from the Buffs, Utah finished the set 25-16 to win the match.
"To put this season in perspective, we had many moments of brilliance with the least experienced team that I have ever put on the floor," Kritza explained. "The drive that our freshmen class has to bring this program to the top of the toughest conference in the country is a bright spot."
The future is very bright for the Buffs. They only lose senior Michelle Miller and return all of their starters next season.
"We wanted very badly to make it to the postseason for Miller's last season, but it was not to be this year," Kritza said. "Her contribution to this program is greatly appreciated and we wish her well as she continues on to graduation and beyond."
CU will also get back Kerra Schroeder who redshirted the season after suffering a season-ending injury in the second match of the year. Schroeder was seventh in the Pac-12 with 431 kills and was also seventh in points with (482.0) in 2011. She ranks 14th on CU's career kills chart with 1,039.
"Kerra's absence on the court was felt many times this season, but a bright spot for us moving forward is that she is working very diligently in the training room and is completely committed to making a full return to the court next year," Kritza said.
The Buffs have also signed three preps to national letters of intent, all three of which will help the program continue to improve.
Kritza breaks down the future of Colorado Volleyball by class:
"Next season we will have a handful of players playing their last season: Kerra Schroeder, Nikki Lindow, Jessica Aschenbrenner, Emily Alexis and Elysse Richardson will all be preparing for graduation. They have been through many of the ups and downs of program building and their full commitment to a higher level of competition everyday is essential to taking another big step as a program."
"The juniors will return with considerably more playing experience: Kelsey English, Neira Ortiz Ruiz and Ana Pantovic all saw significant playing time this season and will be much better players with a strong offseason. One important thing for this program as we go into our offseason is dedication to proper training and commitment to excellence above all. It is important we have the level of commitment seen in players like Kelsey Spencer, who have made appearances on the court only a few times this season, but their impact is made most in moments not apparent to the crowd. This continued pursuit of excellence daily will allow this group to take all the positives from this season and build them into a season next year that includes postseason play and significant improvement in league standings."
"Nicole Edelman served as a captain and the leader on the court as a true freshman, and that is a feat in itself, but she made considerable strides in how she manages the game and runs a high level offense; she is a fierce competitor and is already asking when she can get back in the gym to start improving to lead the team for next season. Alexis Austin had a terrific season in that she went from a completely inexperienced outside (converted from the middle) to a true competitor in the Pac-12 in fourteen weeks, and her upside is huge because she will put the work in that it takes to make the strides necessary to become one of the league's elite players. Chelsey Keoho battled her way into the starting libero role and really had some top level defensive performances this year. With continued growth and hard work, she will be able to make the improvements we need from her in the offseason, but again, the future is very bright for her as well. Despite not playing a considerable amount this year, Erin Taylor lends a solid and mature approach to all the challenges that a young team like ours will face as it grows and develops into a championship program."