The 2013 season was a memorable one for the University of Colorado volleyball program as the Buffs recorded their first season above .500 (18-14) for the first time since 2006.
It was also the first time since 2006 that the Buffs advanced to the NCAA Tournament; their 17th overall appearance in the tournament. The Buffs climbed the Pac-12 Conference ladder as well, and finished the season tied for seventh with a 9-11 record.
Colorado hosted St. Mary’s (Calif.) to start the season on back-to-back nights at the Coors Events Center. CU dropped its home opener (1-3) but bounced back on the following night to defeat the Gaels with the same score (3-1).
The Buffs kept rolling the following weekend at the Candlewood Suites Invitational in Syracuse, N.Y. CU picked up four wins against Stony Brook, Oakland, Rutgers and Syracuse to win the tournament. Junior outside hitter Taylor Simpson was named the tournament’s MVP and sophomore setter Nicole Edelman was selected to the all-tournament team.
The next weekend, CU headed back to Big 12 country to play at the Baylor Invitational in Waco, Texas, but despite the trip away from Boulder, the team’s thoughts were with the community as Boulder was experiencing one of the most devastating floods in Colorado history. The team left for Texas, but senior middle blocker Nikki Lindow stayed to help her family save their ranch.
The Buffs focused on the task at hand and defeated Appalachian State (3-2) and Northwestern State (3-0) on Sept. 13, but their toughest test would be BU on Sept. 14. The Buffs had lost the previous eight meetings against the Bears while members of the Big 12 Conference and coach Liz Kritza had never beaten the Bears while at CU. Things back in Boulder had settled a bit, so Lindow was able to rejoin the team for the match. CU shocked BU, sweeping the Bears in three sets to win the BU Invitational. Edelman was named the MVP and senior outside hitter Kerra Schroeder was the defensive MVP. Sophomore outside hitter Alexis Austin and freshman libero Cierra Simpson were also named to the all-tournament team.
After that tournament, CU was 8-1, which included an eight-match winning streak that tied for the fifth best in CU history. But it was time to switch gears and start the Pac-12 season.
The Buffs started the conference season at Utah, and despite putting up a great fight and taking Utah to five sets in Salt Lake City, CU fell 15-12 in the fifth set, snapping the eight-match win streak. The Buffs didn’t dwell on the loss with a tough test looming just three days later when they opened their home Pac-12 schedule against No. 11 UCLA. CU came out strong and defeated the Bruins for the first time ever in a thrilling five-set match in front of a season-best crowd of 2,777 at the CEC. The win was Kritza’s first against a ranked team.
CU had one last regular season non-conference match following the win over UCLA. The Buffs headed north on I-25 to Laramie, Wyo. to face the Cowgirls. CU lost the first two sets, but dominated the next two games to force a fifth set. Unfortunately UW came out strong in the fifth set and won 15-11 to take the match.
The Buffs returned home to the CEC and rebounded well as they picked up play in the Pac-12. CU welcomed top-ranked Washington, which was a perfect 10-0 on the season, but the Buffs were ready and soundly defeated the Huskies in four sets for their second win ever against a top-ranked program. The last time the Buffs beat a No. 1 team was in 2006 when they knocked off Nebraska. The win was also CU’s second against a ranked opponent in a week, which CU hadn’t done since 2005.
CU kept rolling, defeating a feisty Washington State team just two days later, also in four sets, and improved to 3-1 in the Pac-12. The Buffs left the CEC for a four-match road trip that didn’t treat them very well. CU dropped three straight to Cal, No. 8 Stanford and No. 21 Oregon, before facing Oregon State. Colorado had not won a Pac-12 road match since entering the league in 2011, but things were about to change and the Buffs broke that streak on Oct. 20 with a sweep over OSU in Corvallis, Ore. It was also the first conference road victory for CU since 2010.
The Buffs returned home after that tough four-match road trip and the CEC continued to be a daunting place for opponents to play. CU hosted its third ranked opponent of the season, No. 25 Arizona, and once again the Buffs pulled off the upset (25-18, 25-19, 25-23). CU kept going and picked up a four-set win (25-22, 17-25, 26-24, 25-23) against Arizona State.
The Buffs hit the road to start the second half of the Pac-12 season and were determined to keep on the winning track. They went down 0-2 to WSU at Pullman, Wash., but rallied back to win the match in five (22-25, 19-25, 25-15, 25-20, 15-13) for their second road conference win of the season.
The No. 3 UW Huskies were next, but this time they took revenge on the Buffs (18-25, 15-25, 19-25). CU dropped the following four matches; including two at home against No. 6 Stanford and No. 22 Cal, for the first home conference losses of the season. CU also dropped contests to Arizona State and Arizona.
With four regular season matches remaining, three of those at the CEC, the Buffs needed to get back on track and that was exactly what they did in the next match against OSU. CU picked up the sweep (28-26, 25-21, 25-20) against the Beavers, but couldn’t keep the momentum going, falling to Oregon two days later (27-29, 21-25, 25-20, 13-25).
The final home match of the season came against Utah and the Buffs wanted revenge for the close loss that started the Pac-12 season. It was another extremely close match, but CU pulled away with the five-set victory (16-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-22, 16-14), finishing with a 7-3 conference record at the CEC.
CU had one final match of the regular season, this one against No. 7 USC in Los Angeles. The Buffs fought hard, but the Trojans pulled away with the win (26-24, 25-14, 25-21). CU finished the regular season 17-13 and was selected to compete in their first NCAA Tournament since 2006.
The first round of the tournament brought CU its second former Big 12 opponent of the season, Iowa State. The Buffs dropped the first set to the Cyclones, but bounced back to win the next three to take the match, snapping a five-match losing streak to ISU, and more importantly, move on to the second round of the tournament for the ninth-time in CU history. Junior Kelsey English served up six aces in the win, the most ever by a Buff in a single NCAA match.
The Buffs squared off against No. 10 Minnesota, the host, in the second round the following night. The Gophers took the first two sets (25-20, 25-18) before CU rallied to win the next two sets (25-17, 25-21). The match went down to the wire, but UM took the set 15-9 to end CU’s magical season.
The Buffs finished the nonconference schedule with a 9-3 record (.750), finishing at or above .500 for the 25th straight season.
Taylor Simpson led the Buffs with 390 kills (3.61 kills per set) and ranked eighth in the Pac-12 while hitting .173 during the season. She was also ninth in the conference in points per set (4.03). Austin ranked second on the team with 278 kills (2.65 kills per set) and Schroeder was third with 221 kills (1.87 kills per set). English was fifth in the Pac-12 in hitting efficiency at .361 (213 kills and 50 errors on 452 attacks) and ranked third in service aces with 0.36 per set. Lindow had the second-best hitting percentage on the team at .335 and averaged 2.01 kills per set. She ranked 10th in league-only matches with a .321 hitting percentage.
Edelman surpassed the 2,000-career assists mark during the year, adding 1,145 during the season (10.13 assists per set) which was sixth in the Pac-12. In league only stats, she was fourth with 10.10 assists per set. In total, Edelman has recorded 2,205 assists, which is seventh all-time at CU.
Freshman libero Cierra Simpson recorded 372 digs and averaged 3.21 digs per set while her sister Taylor Simpson ranked second on the team with 2.32 digs per set (288 digs). Schroeder played a huge role in the back row and ranked third on the squad with 2.32 digs per set (274 digs).
Lindow led the Buffs for the fourth straight season at the net, the first Buff ever to do so, with 133 blocks (15 solo and 118 assists). Her 1.23 blocks per set ranked seventh in the league and she was also eighth in league-only matches with 1.22 blocks per set. Lindow became the fourth Buff to record 400 or more career blocks and finished third on the all-time chart with 426. English added 0.72 blocks per set (84 total) and Taylor Simpson was third on the team with 0.63 blocks per set (68 total).
The Buffs earned a lot of well-deserved recognition for their hard work. Taylor Simpson was named the CU Athlete of the Week four times and Austin, Edelman and English each were honored with the award once. Lindow picked up CU’s first ever Pac-12 Volleyball Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 30 after guiding CU to its five-set win against No. 11 UCLA.
The honors were beyond the regular season and a trio of Buffs were named to Pac-12 honorable mention teams. Edelman and Simpson were each selected to the All-Pac-12 honorable mention squad and Cierra Simpson was selected to the Pac-12 All-Freshman honorable mention team. Taylor Simpson was also recognized regionally for her season as she was named to the AVCA All-Pacific South Region honorable mention team, CU’s first all-region honoree since 2006.
Several Buffs were recognized for their accomplishments off the court. Richardson was named to the Academic All-Pac-12 First Team for the third straight season. Jessica Aschenbrenner, Edelman, English and Schroeder received honorable mention honors.
The Buffs will celebrate their year’s accomplishments with a season-ending banquet on January 18.