MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. —Despite dropping the opening set, the University of Colorado volleyball team rebounded to soundly defeat Iowa State 3-1 (17-25, 25-16, 25-19, 25-21) to move on to the second round of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament on Friday afternoon at the Sports Pavilion.
“I’m very proud of my team for coming back after a very difficult first set,” coach Liz Kritza said. “Overall I think this was a pretty high-level match for a first round NCAA match, which shows the strength of both conferences in which we compete. Credit to [ISU head coach] Christy (Johnson-Lynch) and Iowa State. They are a well-coached team and they really tested us and made us raise our level of competition. I’m happy we turned it around and came away with the victory.”
This is the first time the Buffs have moved on to the second round of the tournament since 2006, coincidentally the last time CU made the tourney.
“It’s really great for our team,” junior Taylor Simpson said. “To be here is just an honor and to take that next step and win in the first round is just great.”
The Buffs struggled in the first set, recording just five kills along with five errors on 28 attacks, hitting .000, compared to the next three sets where they had 39 kills and seven errors on 95 attacks to hit .337.
Simpson led the way for the Buffs with 16 kills despite recording just two in the first set. She also hit .293 with four errors on 41 swings.
“Nicole (Edelman) and I were connecting a lot better after the first set,” Simpson explained. “We talked about what we needed to do to correct it and after that we started connecting really well.”
Kelsey English led the Buffs with a .467 hitting efficiency behind eight kills, one error and 15 swings. Kerra Schroeder, Nikki Lindow and Alexis Austin also got into the action for the Buffs. Schroeder had seven kills and Lindow and Austin each tallied six. Lindow didn’t commit a single error on 12 swings to attack at a team-best .500 hitting percentage.
“We have some depth on our bench, which is something that is fairly new to us,” Kritza said. “We have multiple pin hitters who are comfortable with and are well versed at going into the match in different positions. As a coach, that affords me the opportunity to set a match-up. I have a luxury to have those subs. I think that makes the difference for us.”
Edelman dished out 36 assists in the win, helping CU to a .260 hitting percentage. The Buffs had 44 total kills and 12 errors on 123 attacks. CU held ISU to a .146 hitting efficiency. The Cyclones tallied 54 kills and 31 errors on 157 swings.
The Buffs really limited the ISU attack with 11.0 team blocks in the match. Lindow put up a match-high eight blocks, one solo and seven assists, while Edelman and Schroeder each recorded four blocks. CU did well hitting around ISU’s block as the Cyclones only posted 5.0 blocks on the night.
CU had 60 digs in the match with the Simpson sisters, Taylor and Cierra, each recording 13.
The Buffs are now 18-13 overall this season while ISU finishes 18-10. The win for CU also snaps a five-match losing streak to the former Big 12 foe as the Buffs lost the last five meetings between the two teams will members of the Big 12.
ISU jumped out to an early 13-8 lead in the match, forcing Kritza to use the team’s first timeout. The Cyclones and Buffs continued to battle, and for the most part traded off points. When the score reached 20-15, CU used its final break of the set, but unfortunately ISU took the next two points out of the break to take a seven point advantage (22-15). The Buffs sided-out with a kill from Schroeder, but couldn’t make up the difference in the game and fell 25-17.
“Both teams were serving very aggressively and we had to,” Kritza said about the difference between the first set and the rest of the match. “We were both trying to knock each other from siding-out at a high percentage and the team that was able to do that, was the team that was coming away with the win. To keep pace with scoring we had to make some adjustments to our line-up and we did that.”
The Buffs got out to a much better start in the second set, going up 9-5 before the Cyclones used their first break of the match. CU continued to press and increased the lead to nine points with a 7-2 run (16-7). The Buffs didn’t let up, and despite ISU getting back within five points, CU closed the set 25-16.
CU kept the momentum going into the third set, taking a commanding 14-6 lead. There didn’t seem to be a way to slow the Buffs down although ISU did get within four points twice in the game (18-14 and 23-19). CU easily wrapped up the set 25-19 while hitting .371 with 14 kills and just one error on 35 swings.
Colorado continued to roll in the fourth set, this time taking a 13-5 lead to start. The Buffs increased the advantage to 17-9 before the Cyclones recorded five straight points to get within three points (17-14). The Buffs answered and were able to pull ahead 20-15. CU went up 24-19 before ISU fought off two straight match points, but the Buffs finished the set, and the match, on the following point with a kill from Schroeder.
The Buffs will play No. 10 Minnesota (28-6) on Saturday at 6 p.m. MT (7 p.m. CT) at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis. The winner will advance to the NCAA Regional competition in Lexington, Kentucky, Dec. 13-14.