BOULDER— The University of Colorado volleyball team is set to start the 2014 season at the Northern Illinois Invitational, August 29-30, in DeKalb, Ill.
The Buffs will start the tournament at 4 p.m. MT against Northwestern on Friday, Aug. 29. CU will play its remaining two opponents on Saturday, Aug. 30, taking on host Northern Illinois at 11 a.m. MT. and Presbyterian at 4 p.m. MT. Live stats will be available for all three matches, while a live stream for CU’s match against NIU will be streamed for a fee at NIUHuskies.com.
Colorado returns four starters and the libero from the 2013 team that finished with an 18-14 overall record while advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Senior outside hitter Taylor Simpson and junior setter Nicole Edelman will serve as captains this year. Simpson led CU with 3.61 kills per set and earned AVCA All-Pacific South Region and All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors for her 2013 season. Edelman was also an All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection after recording 10.13 assists per set and leading the Buffs to a .229 hitting efficiency.
Senior middle blocker Kelsey English, junior outside hitter Alexis Austin and sophomore libero Cierra Simpson also return to the line-up. English led CU with 0.36 aces per set and hit .361 with 213 kills and 50 errors on 352 attacks while posting 0.72 blocks per set. Austin averaged 2.65 kills per set and Cierra Simpson picked up 3.21 digs per set.
In total, CU returns 11 letterwinners from last season and adds four newcomers in freshmen Anna Pfefferle, Stephanie Shadley and Gabby Simpson, as well as senior Rachel Hargis who lettered four years on the CU women’s basketball team.
Northwestern ended the 2013 season with a .500 record at 16-16. The Wildcats tied for eighth in the Big Ten after finishing 8-12 in league play. NU returns five starters plus the libero, as well as 11 letterwinners.
The Wildcats return two of their top three hitters in senior Katie Dutchman (2.58 kills per set) and sophomore Kayla Paffen (2.14 kills per set). Dutchman led NU in 2013 with a .255 hitting percentage and posted 0.62 blocks per set. Senior Savannah Paffen was the team’s top blocker with 0.91 blocks per set. Sophomore Caleigh Ryan directed NU to a .216 attack percentage with 11.23 assists per set and defensively, Caroline Niedospial recorded a team-high 4.46 digs per set.
The Buffs lead the all-times series with the Wildcats at 1-0.
NIU recorded a 19-13 record in 2013 and finished third in the Mid-American Conference west division with a 10-6 record. The Huskies return 10 letterwinners, which includes four starters from last year.
Senior Mackenzie Roddy averaged 3.48 kills per set and added 2.63 digs per set to lead NIU in 2013. Sophomore Mary Grace ranked third on the team with 2.49 kills per set. Junior Alexis Gonzalez handed out 9.55 assists per set to direct the Huskies to a .211 hitting percentage. At the net, sophomore Jenna Radtke posted 0.92 blocks per set.
CU leads the all-times series 1-0.
Presbyterian finished the 2013 season 9-22 and returns four starters plus the libero from that squad. The Blue Hose also returns eight letterwinners. PC placed seventh in the Big South Conference with a 7-7 record.
Seniors Kelly Berryman, Ashtin Frank, Rachel Hall and Mary Trimpe all played a key role for PC last year. Hall was the team’s leading offensive scorer with 2.89 kills per set (.211 hitting percentage), while adding 0.53 blocks per set. Berryman ranked third on the team, averaging 2.02 kills per set while hitting .229. Berryman also led the team with 0.93 blocks per set. Frank returns as the team’s setter and averaged 9.40 assists per set. Defensively, Trimpe recorded 5.61 digs per set to lead the team.
This is the first meeting between the two schools.
After the Northern Illinois Invitational, the Buffs will return home to the Coors Events Center for a pair of home nonconference tournaments Sept. 5-6 and Sept. 12-13. They will host the Omni Hotels Colorado Volleyball Classic Sept. 5-6 and the Omni Hotels Invitational Sept. 12-13. Season tickets for home matches can be purchased online at CUBuffs.com for $25 or by calling 303-49-BUFFS. Children 12 and under will be free this year.