DEKALB, Ill. —The University of Colorado volleyball team battled it out against a tough Northwestern squad to open the 2014 season, but unfortunately came away with a 3-2 loss (20-25, 17-25, 26-24, 25-17, 17-15) on Friday night.
"Tonight was a hard fought battle against a solid opponent, and while we are not walking away with the win we expected, we gained a lot in experience, and being challenged tonight will result in a lot of positives moving forward," coach Liz Kritza said.
Senior Taylor Simpson and freshman Gabby Simpson combined for 29 kills in the effort. Taylor Simpson led the Buffs with 15 kills and had just three errors on 43 swings. She also served up a pair of aces. Gabby Simpson recorded 14 kills and three errors on 30 attacks while adding a team-best five aces.
"Gabby had an excellent performance tonight coming up with five aces and 14 kills with a strong efficiency,” Kritza said.
Gabby Simpson made her debut along with two other freshmen, Anna Pfefferle and Stephanie Shadley. Shadley also had a good debut with eight kills and an ace in five sets. Pfefferle saw action in one set and another newcomer, senior Rachel Hargis, played in three sets for the Buffs.
"Speaking of important game experience, four players made their collegiate volleyball debut tonight; Anna Pfefferle, Stephanie Shadley, Gabby Simpson and Rachel Hargis.” Kritza said. “Three of them started. I am certain that they will be better players for starting out of the gates playing a strong opponent and it will serve us well many times over this season."
Senior Kelsey English, another starter for the Buffs, tallied 13 kills and posted a block.
"English was effective offensively tonight and we look for her continued improvement," said Kritza.
CU fell behind in the first set, forcing Kritza to call the first timeout of the year after NU took a 19-17 lead. CU came back to even the score at 20-20, which caused the Wildcats to use a timeout. The Buffs kept the momentum going and won the set 25-20 with five straight points out of the timeout.
The Buffs again found themselves down in the second set but battled back. Following a timeout at 21-19, the Buffs used a 3-1 run to take a 23-22 lead. CU went on to close the game 25-23.
The third set was tied 17-17, but after the teams trading off points, NU went up 24-23. CU tied it up 24-24, but the Wildcats took the next two points to win the set 26-25.
The Wildcats got out to a 10-3 lead in the fourth set and held the lead the rest of the frame. The Buffs got within four points (21-17), but NU recorded the next four points to take the set and force game five.
The Buffs took an 8-5 lead in the fifth set as the teams traded sides. After a NU timeout, the Wildcats got within two points (9-7), forcing CU to spend one of its timeouts. After the break, the Buffs added two points to take a four-point advantage (11-7). The Wildcats got back with two points (11-9), but CU answered with a kill (12-9). NU came back to even the score at 14-14 and went on to take the set 17-15.
"Within our program, we have very high expectations for this group and that has not changed with tonight's tough loss,” Kritza said. “We will remain focused on the progress and move forward to the next match, as we have two quality opponents to face this weekend and even greater opportunity to improve."
CU will play its remaining two opponents on Saturday, taking on host Northern Illinois at 11 a.m. MT. and Presbyterian at 4 p.m. MT. Live stats will be available for both matches, while a live stream for CU’s match against NIU will be streamed for a fee at NIUHuskies.com.
"The challenge is readily accepted by the captains of this team, Nicole (Edelman) and Taylor, to ensure we are in the right place to make the most of this match and be ready to take care of business when we take the court again," Kritza said. "The key to this team's success will remain flexibility and the ability to perform at a consistent level."