PULLMAN, Wash. — The University of Colorado volleyball team overcame a 0-2 deficit to defeat Washington State 3-2 (22-25, 19-25, 25-15, 25-20, 15-13) to earn its fourth straight win on Friday night at Bohler Gym.
“Coming back to win from a 0-2 deficit is a feat in the Pac-12, much less on the road,” coach Liz Kritza said. “Credit to Jen Greeny and her squad, they had us on the ropes, and they did not relent, and playing in this venue is always a difficult thing to do. This is more than just a win for us; it is a significant step for this program in showing character and guts, and simply digging our heels in and refusing to lose. We have to continue being a flexible and aggressive team, and tonight’s performance was a testament to the team-first mentality that has become a tenet of this program.”
The Buffs got off to a slow start in the match, but after some changes in the line-up, CU was able to make the adjustments to get back in and win the match. One of those changes was putting Elysse Richardson in at libero, moving her from the defensive specialist position. She collected 14 of CU’s 62 digs.
"The serve receive and defensive contributions of all three defensive players, Richardson, Cierra Simpson and Jessica Aschenbrenner were instrumental in tonight success, and it was great to see senior Elysse Richardson step in with poise and great energy to give our team a boost when we needed it," Kritza said.
Another important change was matching Taylor Simpson up on the top attacker for Washington State, Kyra Holt.
"Taylor's versatility tonight proved to be a key in turning this match around,” Kritza explained. “Holt scored 12 kills in the first two sets and finished with only seven more in three sets when we were able match Taylor up on her. She did a great job cooling down their hot hitter."
Offensively Kerra Schroeder had 12 kills for the Buffs and also added 11 digs and four block assists. She recorded a .237 hitting percentage with just three errors on a team-high 38 attacks.
“Schroeder played a steady role for this team and showed her experience and leadership big time,” Kritza said. “She carried a load for this team tonight in all facets and it was only fitting that she scored the biggest point tonight, the last one.”
The middles, Kelsey English and Nikki Lindow, also had a nice night as each hammered 10 kills. English hit .444 with two errors on 18 attacks and posted seven block assists, while Lindow did not have a single error and was set 22 times. She put up a match-high 10 blocks, two solos and eight assists.
“Both middles tonight had a huge impact on the outcome of the match and (Nicole) Edelman did a great job of finding them and running the offense as a whole,” Kritza said. “The blocking tonight was crucial to keeping us in the match when we were struggling to score. Lindow and English came up with some very timely points when we needed them most.”
CU recorded 55 kills and hit .292 under the direction of Edelman who handed out 41 assists. She also had five kills on eight errorless attacks to hit .625. Taylor Simpson had nine kills and 13 digs in the win and Alexis Austin added eight kills.
The Buffs also had a season-best 11 services aces in the win. Jessica Aschenbrenner recorded a career-best four aces and English had three. Schroeder got into the action with two aces and Richardson and Cierra Simpson each added one ace.
Kyra Holt was the top performer for the Cougars with 19 kills. WSU had 66 total kills and hit .206 in the match. Kate Sommer had a match-best 19 digs.
The Buffs improved to 15-6 overall with the win and are 7-4 in the Pac-12. WSU is now 15-9 overall, 2-9 in the Pac-12. Tonight’s win was also the second straight road victory for the Buffs after earning a sweep of Oregon State on Oct. 20.
“Coach is always emphasizing the importance of each match and tonight’s match was a perfect example of that,” Schroeder said. “I said this last time we played Washington State, but it is true that this is the most important match of the season thus far because a victory helps us to separate from the pack. It also helps us to stay in the top of Pac-12, which is where we want to be as a team. This is a huge win for us, and was not easy at all to beat a tough, scrappy team on their home court with a tough game environment, but we showed a lot of courage and heart and pulled it off. I am proud of my team and look forward to our next tough matchup.”
WSU took a 14-10 lead in the first set, but the Buffs came back to even the frame at 15-15. CU went on to take the lead at 18-16 before the set would be tied again at 20-20. The two teams were tied again at 21-21, but after that WSU recorded two straight points (23-21). CU took the following point with a kill from English, but the Cougars finished the set with the next two points (25-22).
The second set was played very close in the beginning and was tied 14-14. At that point, the Cougars scored three straight points (17-14). CU would get back within two points at several spots in the set, but that was as close as the Buffs could get as WSU went on to take the game 25-19.
CU trailed early in the third set (4-1) before putting together an 8-1 run to go up 9-5, forcing the Cougars to take a timeout. CU continued to hold the lead and had a 14-10 advantage when WSU needed its final timeout. The Buffs kept the pressure on and recorded the following four points to go up 18-10. The lead was comfortable and CU easily went on to take the set 25-15.
The fourth set was another close one and the Buffs led 15-13 at the media break. CU increased its lead to 17-14 after the timeout and then to 20-16, which caused the Cougars to spend a timeout. WSU took the first two points (20-18), but the Buffs answered with a pair of their own to get the four-point lead back (22-18). CU maintained its advantage and won the set 25-20.
The Buffs led 8-7 in the fifth set. After the teams switched sides, Aschenbrenner served up an ace (9-7) so WSU decided it was time to take a timeout. The Buffs took the next two points to take an 11-7 lead in the set, forcing the Cougars to spend their final timeout of the match. WSU took the first two points out of the break (11-9), this time causing the Buffs to call a timeout. The Cougars came all the way back to even the set at 12-12 and CU used its final timeout. The Buffs had the drive to win and scored the next two points to get to match point (14-12). The Cougars fought off the first match point, but Schroeder finished the match with a kill on the following point.
Colorado will head to Seattle, Wash. next for a rematch against No. 3 Washington on Sunday, Nov. 4 at 4 p.m. MT. The match will be televised regionally on the Pac-12 Network. CU upset the Huskies 3-1 in the first meeting of the season on Oct. 4 in Boulder.
“Now we must regroup and turn around quickly to go full steam ahead after the team atop the league’s standing,” Kritza said. “We are going to prepare for a battle and take the challenges from tonight and use them to improve as team before we take the court again.”