BOULDER — The Coors Events Center has become an ominous place for visitors to play as the third ranked opponent in a row, No. 25 Arizona, fell to the University of Colorado volleyball team 25-18, 25-19, 25-23 on Friday night.
“It’s fantastic for this group of players and the staff,” coach Liz Kritza said. “This was our third attempt at playing a ranked opponent at home, and to come away with the win and a victory is important for us, especially a sweep. It shows that our players are understanding what we need to do to be competitive and successful in this league. I like what I saw tonight and that we were playing a tough team that is coming off of what has been their most impressive play thus far in the season. We handled ourselves with great composure and did not let up when the opportunity presented itself. I’m really proud of these kids tonight.”
Earlier this season, the Buffs upset No. 11 UCLA and No. 1 Washington. The last time CU defeated three ranked opponents in a single season was in 2006. That year, the Buffs beat No. 17 Missouri, No. 1 Nebraska and No. 19 New Mexico State.
“It’s amazing,” junior outside hitter Taylor Simpson said. “After beating these three teams, it’s all uphill from here. Obviously, we need to get wins on the road, and that will be our strength. For how we are playing at home right now, though, I think that it’s all positive. I think that we are going to do really great things this season.”
CU is now 13-6 overall, 5-4 in the Pac-12. The Buffs are also an impressive 4-0 in Pac-12 play at Coors. Arizona dropped to 15-6 overall, 5-4 in the Pac-12.
Simpson led the Buffs with 15 kills in the win and hit .444 with just three errors on 27 attacks. Senior Kerra Schroeder had 11 kills in the win. Nikki Lindow contributed seven kills and hit .312 in the win. In total, the Buffs had 44 kills in the win and hit .303 with 14 errors and 99 attacks. Nicole Edelman handed out 36 assists, while adding two kills.
On defense, the Buffs picked up 40 digs and posted 7.0 blocks. Simpson had a team-high 11 digs and also put up five block assists. Cierra Simpson had nine digs and Edelman added seven digs.
“Tonight was really great,” Taylor Simpson said. “I just came off of a small injury, and I was just working back from that. It’s always tough when you come off of an injury because you’re not really sure what is going to happen or how you are going to play. The team is really supportive, and I thought we all came together tonight and played as a team. It was really a team effort. It was great. It’s always a great atmosphere to play in here at Coors [Event Center].”
UA got off to an 8-4 start in the first set before the Buffs tied the score at 8-8. Again the Wildcats went ahead (12-8), and again CU rallied back to even the set at 13-13. At that point, UA took its first timeout of the set, but it didn’t slow down the Buffs as they took the lead 16-14. CU continued to add to its lead and was up 19-16 when UA used its second timeout of the set. After the break, the Buffs put together a 5-1 run to bring the score to 24-17. The Wildcats fought off the first set point before CU finished the set 25-18.
The second set saw the Buffs taking a 6-4 lead before UA used its first break of the set. The Buffs continued to add to the advantage and went up 16-11 before the Wildcats spent their final timeout of the set. Out of that break, UA recorded three of four points (17-14) and this time, the Buffs needed a break. The timeout worked to CU’s advantage, and the Buffs went back ahead 22-16 after a 5-2 run. The lead was too much for the Wildcats, and the Buffs won 25-19.
The third set was also very close to start, but the Buffs had a narrow 11-8 lead before UA took a timeout. The Wildcats were able to fight their way back into the set, evening the score at 17-17. The Buffs used a 3-1 run to take a 20-18 lead, which forced the Wildcats to call another timeout. The match would be tied again at 20-20 before Schroeder scored two points with a kill and an ace to give the Buffs a 22-20 lead. The two teams slugged it out to the end, but the Buffs prevailed, winning the set 25-23.
The Buffs will take on Arizona State at home on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 4 p.m. The match against ASU will be televised live regionally on the Pac-12 Network.
“Arizona State started the season off with fire; they are one of the toughest teams in our conference,” Kritza said. “They have had some ups and downs, but they have a lot of weapons. They’re well-coached. We are expecting quite a battle. They are coming off of a five-set match at Utah. They had an extra day when they played last night, so we are going to be prepared to make sure that we get the match and are ready when they get in here on Sunday.”