BOULDER - The University of Colorado volleyball team finished its non-conference schedule with a 10-2 record after earning a pair of wins against CSU Bakersfield and Norfolk State on Saturday afternoon at the Colorado Invitational.
The 10-2 start ties the third best start in school history; CU was also 10-2 in 1992. The best CU start is 13-1, which was in 1998. The Buffs also had a good start in 1993 when they recorded a 12-2 record.
"To go 10-2 in the non-conference is a big change for this program because we did face some adversity early on and they responded," CU coach Liz Kritza said.
The Buffs started the day with a five-set victory against CSUB and finished with a sweep of NSU. CU came back from a 2-1 deficit to defeat the Roadrunners 25-19, 23-25, 19-25, 25-13, 15-13 and then easily took care of the Spartans 25-16, 25-22, 25-16.
The Buffs hit .377 in the match against NSU and recorded remarkable efficiencies in the first and third sets, .560 and .409, respectively. They struggled a little more in the second set and hit just .200. In total CU recorded 39 kills.
Junior Nikki Lindow and sophomore Neira Ortiz Ruiz combined to hit .543 against the Spartans. Lindow had a match-best 11 kills and just one error on 17 swings (.588) and Ortiz Ruiz had 10 kills and one error on 18 attempts (.500).
"The two of them scoring almost half of our points shows that they've both answered the call from when I put the challenge up when we lost Kerra Schroeder," Kritza said. "Some players had to step up, and Lindow has done that offensively. Neira is working her way into being that very solid offensive threat for us and she knows that she's going to have to shoulder that burden. I'm proud of the effort that both Nikki and Neira put in today."
CU started off well in the first set against NSU, taking a 15-9 lead before the Spartans called a timeout. The Buffs continued to add to their lead with a 5-4 run to take a 20-13 advantage. NSU used their final timeout, but it was too late since CU quickly finished the game with a 5-3 run (25-16). The Buffs recorded 16 kills and just two errors on 25 attacks in the set.
The Buffs were down 0-6 to start the second set, but stormed back to tie the set at 14-14. They took their first lead of the game at 15-14 with an ace from Michelle Miller. The two teams would trade off points for the following 14 points before CU took two in a row to take a 23-21 lead. The Spartans used a timeout, but it didn't slow CU down and the Buffs won 25-22.
The third set saw the Buffs taking an 11-6 lead before NSU called a timeout. The Spartans took the next two points, but it did little as CU recorded an 8-1 run to increase its lead to 19-8. Miller served up another ace out of the second NSU timeout, but the Spartans came back with their own 3-1 run (21-12). The Buffs didn't wait much longer to close the set and the match, finishing it off 25-16.
In the first match of the day against CSUB, Lindow also led the way for the Buffs. She hammered 14 kills and a team best .440 with three errors on 25 attacks. She led the Buffs at the net as well with nine block assists.
CU had 56 kills and hit .228 in the win and recorded 15.0 blocks. Ortiz Ruiz had a solid match for the Buffs with 12 kills. Kelsey English and Alexis Austin each added 11 kills and five block assists a piece. English also recorded a .364 hitting efficiency.
The Buffs took an 11-3 lead to start the match and extended it to 17-8 before the Roadrunners put together a 5-0 run to cut the advantage to 17-13. CSUB got within two points at 21-19, but that was as close at it would get since CU closed the set with four straight points (25-19).
The second set started close and was tied 10-10 before CSUB used a 6-1 run to take a 16-11 lead. The Roadrunners had set point at 24-19, but the Buffs fought off the next four set points to get within a point at 23-24. CU was unable to finish the comeback as CSUB finished the set with a kill (25-23).
The Roadrunners got out to a 15-7 lead in the third set. CU called a timeout and then started to chip away at the lead. The Buffs got within five at 15-20, but weren't able to get any closer as CSUB pulled away with the 25-19 win in the set.
CU had a much better start in the fourth set, taking a 13-9 lead before CSUB used a timeout. The Buffs continued to press ahead, taking three of the next five points (16-11) to force the Roadrunners to use their final timeout of the set. CU used a 6-0 run out of that timeout to take a 22-11 lead and finished the set 25-13.
The Buffs led 8-7 at the side change in the fifth set. CSUB used its first timeout of the set when CU led 10-9. The Buffs were up 13-11 when the Roadrunners used their second timeout. CSUB got within a point at 13-12 and then again at 14-13, but the Buffs finished the match 15-13.
"I think for a team that's comprised of the youth that we have, being able to pull out five-set wins is really important." Kritza explained. "It shows what kind of character we have, what kind of leadership we have. When players struggle, they are going to have to be able to come out of it. This allows players to have confidence and know that things may not go exactly your way. But at the end of the day, if you're a high-level team, you're going to show up and get it done. It might not be pretty all the time, but what it did was provide a wake-up call for players."
CU has won all four five-set matches this year and three of those were on the road.
The Buffs will start the Pac-12 Conference schedule on Wednesday, Sept. 19 against Utah at the CEC. The match is slated for an 8 p.m. start and will be televised on the Pac-12 Mountain Network. Check your local listings for the channel.