BOULDER - The Pac-12 season is off to a great start for the University of Colorado volleyball team as the Buffs defeated Utah 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-21) on Wednesday night to win their league opener at the Coors Events Center.
"It feels great," coach Liz Kritza said. "Yes, we love the winning part, but the level of play that we exhibited tonight and the fact that it was a complete team effort was the difference.
"We talked about being able to do things together and we talked about correcting mistakes. The way that we won, I think, was in pretty convincing fashion and they were very confident throughout. There really weren't many inconsistencies throughout the entire match. I think the fashion in which we won was important, because it shows that we took another step, which is huge for these young players."
The Buffs are now 11-2 this season (1-0 in the Pac-12) which is one of the best starts in school history. This was the first sweep for the Buffs in Pac-12 play since joining the league in 2011. Utah fell to 9-5 overall (0-1 Pac-12).
"Our non-conference schedule was not nearly the same level as our Pac-12 slate, so we were very pleased with our complete effort," Kritza said. "Our coaches did a great job preparing this team; they knew what was coming beforehand. The players drew from that confidence and they were very steady, and I think that that helped. They were completely prepared for whatever was going to be across from them tonight."
Neira Ortiz Ruiz led the Buffs with a match-high 14 kills and also hit a match-best .565 with just one error on 23 swings. Alexis Austin was second on the team with 12 kills.
Nicole Edelman had 36 assists in the win and directed CU to a .299 hitting efficiency with 44 kills and 15 errors on 97 attacks. The Buffs hit an impressive .379 in the second set (15 kills, four errors, 29 attacks). The Utes hit just .149 in the match, recording 38 kills and 23 errors on 101 attacks.
The Buffs were also blocking well with 14.0 team blocks. Kelsey English had a career-high eight blocks and Nikki Lindow added six blocks. Austin put up five blocks and Edelman posted four blocks. Utah had just 6.0 team blocks in the match.
CU also recorded more digs than Utah (36-30). Elysse Richardson led CU with a match-best 10 digs and Edelman and Emily Alexis each added seven.
The Buffs took a 13-8 lead in the first set before the Utes used their first timeout. CU kept the pressure on Utah and extended its lead to 21-15, forcing UU to use its final timeout of the set. The Utes came back to take four of the next six points, cutting CU's lead to 23-19, and this time CU spent a timeout. Utah took the first two points out of the break, but the Buffs came back with two points to finish the set 25-21.
CU took a 9-3 start in the second set before Utah called its first timeout. The Utes answered CU's start with their own run of 7-2, forcing the Buffs to use a timeout at 11-10. The two teams traded off points until CU pulled together a 5-0 run to take a 19-13 lead, causing the Utes to use their last timeout. Utah started to close the gap and got within three points at 23-20, but that was the closest the Utes would get as CU finished the set 25-20.
The third set started a lot closer than the previous two and was tied 9-9 before the Buffs pulled away with a 15-11 advantage. CU continued to stay in front of the Utes and lead 21-17 when UU called a timeout. Out of the break, Utah took the first two points, but the Buffs sided-out and finished the set 25-21.
The Buffs will wrap up their four-match homestand on Saturday, Sept. 22 against California (6-5). The match will start at 7 p.m. and will be streamed online as part of the Pac-12 Digital Network.