BOULDER — The University of Colorado volleyball team battled hard with No. 22 California on Saturday night, but ultimately lost a tough fought match 3-1 (26-28, 25-22, 25-23, 28-26) at the Coors Events Center.
“This is good volleyball,” coach Liz Kritza said. “Deuce sets are a part of high-level volleyball. Obviously, we don’t like this result. It can come down to a matter of three or four balls on each side, and that’s how it pins our momentum. It did not fall [in our favor] tonight.”
The Buffs are now 15-9 overall, 7-7 in the Pac-12, while Cal improved to 16-7 overall, 9-5 in the league.
Taylor Simpson hammered 21 kills in the effort. She was set 52 times and had seven errors to hit .269. Alexis Austin had a nice performance for the Buffs with 11 kills and recorded a team-best .409 hitting efficiency with two errors on 22 attacks.
“I was really pumped up coming into this game, because I knew that when we played them on their home court, we didn’t play very well,” Simpson said. “Coming in, I was really excited, and I thought that we could have pulled it out. I think that from this loss, we can take and learn from our mistakes and grow from them.”
Overall the Buffs recorded 60 kills and hit .272 with Nicole Edelman handing out 48 assists. Kelsey English and Nikki Lindow each had nine kills. English hit .368 and Lindow recorded a .350 attack percentage.
CU had the edge in blocks against the Bears, posting 14.0 team blocks to Cal’s 13.0. Lindow had nine blocks in the match, one solo and eight assists, while English and Simpson each posted five block assists.
Jessica Aschenbrenner had a career-night defensively for the Buffs, picking up a personal-best 21 digs. CU out-dug Cal 56-53 with Edelman recording nine digs and Schroeder adding eight digs.
“What I know about my team is that we are pretty tough on ourselves,” Kritza said. “We are fighting for that ranking spot, and we are fighting to stay in the right segment of the league. To do it, we have to be consistent against these top teams. That’s really the difference in the league. Everyone has the capacity to make great plays; the teams in the top of the league are just doing it consecutively. Nobody in my locker room or on my staff is happy, because we didn’t have the result that we wanted.
“With that being said, there are some really good things that I am seeing from this group as we are coming together. We just have to eliminate some of the unforced errors, because you can’t play with them. You can’t play with them when we are playing teams of this caliber. [I give] credit to Cal; they played well. We just have to learn that we have the momentum to keep it, control it, and finish it out.”
The Bears were led by Adrienne Gehan, who recorded 22 kills, and Christina Higgins added 20 kills. Cal had 73 kills in the match and also recorded a .302 hitting percentage. Defensively, Maddy Kerr led the Bears with 11 digs and Lara Vukasovic had seven block assists.
Cal built a 14-7 lead in the first set before the Buffs called their first timeout. CU answered out of that break with a pair of points (14-9) and continued to work within two points at 17-15 when Cal took its first timeout of the match. CU took the first point after that (17-16) and completed the comeback and tied the score at 22-22 with a block solo by Lindow. The two teams traded off points from that moment and the score was tied four times before CU recorded two straight points with an ace from Simpson and a big block from Ortiz Ruiz and English to finish the set (28-26).
The Bears had a 10-7 advantage to start the second set, but the Buffs rallied back to even the score at 15-15. Cal took a timeout and after that break recorded a 4-1 run to go up 19-16; this time forcing the Buffs to use a timeout. CU took three of the next four points (20-19) to get within a point, but the Bears added three more to their score for a four-point lead (23-19). CU continued to fight and fought off Cal’s first set point at 24-21 with a block by Schroeder and Lindow, but the Bears finished the set on the following point with a block by Michelle Neumayr (25-22).
The third set was tied at 9-9 before Cal took a 13-9 lead, causing Kritza to use a timeout to try to slow down Cal’s offense. CU recorded a 5-2 run to even the set at 15-15, but the Bears pulled away with a 5-1 run (20-16). The Buffs didn’t let up and chipped away at Cal’s lead. CU fought off two of Cal’s set points with a kill from Lindow and an attack error by Cal’s Higgins (24-22). The Bears called a timeout, but it didn’t slow CU down and Taylor Simpson hammered a kill to bring CU within a point (24-23), forcing Cal to use its second break of the set. The Buffs rally fell short as Higgins finished the set with a kill for Cal on the following play (25-23).
The two teams were tied 14-14 in the fourth set when Cal took a two-point lead at 16-14. CU answered with two points of its own and would take the advantage at 20-19 a short while later, causing the Bears to spend a timeout. Cal took the following two points, but again the Buffs answered back with two of their own to maintain a 22-21 lead. The Bears called their second timeout two points later after trading off points with the Buffs (23-22), and retook the lead two points later (24-23). Again the two teams battled and extra points were needed to determine the final. Ultimately the Bears took the set 28-26 to win the match.
The Buffs will head to Arizona for a pair of matches next weekend. They will face Arizona State on Thursday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. and Arizona on Sunday, Nov. 17, at 2 p.m. The match against ASU will be streamed live on the Pac-12 Digital Network, while the contest versus UA will be televised regionally on the Pac-12 Network.
“We are out on the road on Thursday,” Kritza said. “We need to be very disciplined and very intelligent about how we recover with the players that need rest so that we can take our top squad on the road. I think we will like what happens.”