BOULDER— For the first time since 2006, the University of Colorado volleyball team is competing in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament. The Buffs will face off against former Big 12 foe Iowa State in the first round of the tournament on Friday, December 5, at Sports Pavilion on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
CU and ISU will square off at 3:30 p.m. MT. The other two teams at the site, Radford and No. 10 seed Minnesota, will play at 6 p.m. MT. The winners of the two matches will meet on Saturday, Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. MT.
The first and second rounds of the tournament will not be televised but will be streamed online at NCAA.com. Tickets can be purchased through the UM ticket office. All-session reserved tickets will be $20, while all-session general admission is $17 and student/youth/senior general admission is $12. Single session tickets will go on sale, Friday, Dec. 6 at 9 a.m. To purchase tickets, go to mygophersports.com or call the ticket office at 1-800-UGOPHER or 612-624-8080.
CU finished the regular season with a 17-13 overall record and tied for seventh in the Pac-12 Conference (with Utah) with a 9-11 record. The Buffs closed the regular season with a five-set victory at home against Utah and a three-set loss on the road at No. 7 USC.
Junior Taylor Simpson leads CU with 3.64 kills per set and ranks eighth in the Pac-12. Sophomore Alexis Austin is second on the team with 2.70 kills per set. The best hitting percentage on the squad belongs to junior Kelsey English at .357, which is fifth in the Pac-12. She has recorded 196 kills and 48 errors on 415 attacks this season. She is also third in the league in service aces, averaging 0.33 per set.
The offense is directed by sophomore Nicole Edelman. She is averaging 10.18 assists per set this season, the fifth best in the league, while helping the Buffs to a .224 attack percentage. Edelman has also added 84 kills of her own and is hitting .386.
Defensively, true freshman Cierra Simpson has recorded 3.20 digs per set. Taylor Simpson is second on the team with 2.66 digs per set and senior Kerra Schroeder adds 2.37 digs per set. At the net, senior Nikki Lindow ranks eighth in the Pac-12 with 1.20 blocks per set. English adds 0.71 blocks per set and Taylor Simpson posts 0.64 blocks per set.
Iowa State is 18-9 this season and completed the Big 12 portion of its schedule with an 11-5 record, tying for third with Oklahoma. The Cyclones ended the season last week with a pair of losses to No. 1 Texas (3-1) and Kansas State (3-0).
Mackenzie Bigbee leads ISU with 3.25 kills per set and is attacking at a .255 hitting percentage with 315 kills and 126 errors on 740 attacks. Ciara Capezio is second on the team with 2.71 kills per set and Victoria Hurtt adds 2.49 kills per set. The best hitting percentage on the team belongs to Tenisha Matlock at .314. This season she has recorded 214 kills and 55 errors on 506 swings. As a team, the Cyclones are hitting .238. Jenelle Hudson has handed out 11.13 assists per set.
Defensively, Kristen Hahn is averaging 5.73 digs per set, which is third in the NCAA. At the net, Matlock has posted a team-best 0.70 blocks per set and is followed closely by Tory Knuth who has 0.60 blocks per set.
The Buffs and Cyclones have a long history dating back to 1986, the first year of varsity volleyball at CU. The Buffs own a commanding 39-17 lead against ISU, however in the last 10 meetings, the Cyclones have won nine matches. The two teams have met six times on a neutral court and in five of those meetings, the Buffs have been victorious.
Minnesota, the host of the first and second rounds, is ranked 10th in the latest AVCA Division I Coaches Poll. The Gophers finished the regular season 27-6 and recorded a 15-5 record to finish third. UM is currently riding a four–match win streak and own an 11-2 record at the Sports Pavilion.
Tori Dixon is averaging 3.63 kills per set to lead the Gophers this season and is also attacking at a team-best .393 percentage with 414 kills and 89 errors on 826 attacks. Second on the team in kills is Ashley Wittman with 3.36 kills per set and Daly Santana is third with 2.76. UM is hitting .287 this season under the direction of Alexandra Palmer who has dished out 9.19 assists per set.
In the back row, Wittman has picked up a team-best 3.41 digs per set and Santana adds 2.75 digs per set. The Gophers are averaging 2.93 blocks per set with Dixon posting 1.32 and Hannah Tapp adding 1.31 blocks per set.
The Buffs and Gophers have meet four times with each team winning twice. The last meeting between the two teams was a 3-0 win for CU in 1995.
Radford won the Big South Tournament last weekend to earn its trip to the tournament. The Highlanders are 25-9 this season and were 11-3 in the Big South.
Rachel Wiechecki is averaging 3.77 kills per set to lead RU and Cheyanne James is second on the team with 2.86 kills per set. The Highlanders are attacking at a .239 clip with Jena Braden directing the offense. She has dished out 8.71 assists per set this season.
RU is averaging 14.50 digs per set. Wiechecki has a team-best 3.55 digs per set and Kelby Jackson adds 2.99 digs per set for the Highlanders. At the net, Emma Deininger has put up 1.09 blocks per set.
The Highlanders and Buffs have never met in volleyball.
And don’t forget to check out ‘This Week In Colorado Volleyball,’ online now at CUBuffs.com.