BOULDER - Freshman Alexis Austin hammered a career-best 18 kills and helped the University of Colorado volleyball team move past Oregon State in four sets (25-20, 15-25, 26-24, 25-22) on Sunday afternoon at the Coors Events Center.
With the win the Buffs moved into a three-way tie for seventh-place in the Pac-12 Conference with a 4-8 record and is 14-10 overall. OSU fell to 13-11 on the season, 3-9 in the conference.
"This match was crucial," coach Liz Kritza said. "We are at the stage in the Pac-12 season where things are starting to shake out as far as being five-to-twelve in positions. For us to be able to separate ourselves is probably the most important thing so far this season. This was exactly the step that we needed to take with this entire team. We were down and we gutted it out and came back to pull out the win, because it was necessary for us to do this for our program."
Neira Ortiz Ruiz was just one kill shy of her career-best with 13 kills in the victory and also hit .303. Kelsey English was third on the team with seven kills and three others, Nicole Edelman, Nikki Lindow and Ana Pantovic, each added four kills.
The Buffs recorded 51 kills and hit .215 in the match. Edelman handed out 40 assists as well as an ace. The Buffs had five total aces on the night, two coming from Austin for another career-high.
Defensively Chelsey Keoho led the Buffs with 18 digs, one which came at a very crucial part of the match late in the fourth set.
"A lot of times with liberoes and anyone down the line, you have to be stopped in playing defense," Kritza said. "You have to put your body in harm's way, and she did a fantastic job. It is not the prettiest play, but it was absolutely the turning point in that five-point run that we made."
Michelle Miller was also busy in the back row with her own career-high of 16 digs. CU out-dug OSU 63-58 despite 21 digs from OSU's Becky Defoe.
English and Austin led CU at the net with four block assists apiece and Lindow had a total of three blocks with one solo and two assists. CU had 7.5 team blocks.
CU started the match with a 10-6 lead, but the Beavers came back to tie the score at 10-10. The score would be tied five more times before the Buffs put together a 4-0 run to take a 19-15 advantage. The Beavers took the following three points to get within a point of CU (19-18), but the Buffs answered with a 6-2 run to finish out the set.
The Buffs hit .424 in the game with 18 kills. Ortiz Ruiz had six and Austin hammered five. English added four kills and hit .667 on six errorless attacks.
The Buffs had a slow start in the second set, allowing the Beavers to take a 7-1 lead. CU chipped away at the deficit and got the score to just a pair of points at 11-13. OSU quickly pulled back ahead with a 6-2 run (19-13), forcing Kritza to use her second timeout of the set. The Buffs weren't able to slow the Beavers down and fell 25-15. OSU hit .267 in the set and held the Buffs to .000, partly due to 5.5 team blocks in the set.
Colorado took a 9-4 advantage to start the third set, causing OSU to use a quick timeout. After the break, the Beavers started to chip away at the Buffs' lead and would tie the set up at 19-19 with three straight points. The score was tied again at 20-20 and 23-23 before OSU would have its first set point at 24-23. CU used a timeout and it worked as the Buffs took the next three points to win the set 26-24.
Austin had six kills in that game and CU hit much better at .220 with 14 kills and just five errors on 41 attacks. The Beavers recorded 12 kills and hit .267.
The Beavers took an 8-2 lead to start the fourth set, but the Buffs worked hard and cut the deficit to just a pair at 13-15. OSU pulled back ahead with a 4-1 run (19-14) and again CU answered back, this time getting within a point at 19-20. The Beavers took the next two points, but the Buffs stormed back with three straight kills (22-22). OSU used its final timeout of the match but couldn't slow down CU as the Buffs took the final three points to close the match (25-22). CU ended the set with six straight points, five on Austin's serve.
"Honestly, I didn't want to go to a fifth set, so I was really trying to stay focused on my serves and just listen to where the coaches wanted me to go," Austin said. "Also, I'm trying to play defense, and hopefully the rest of the plays will come together. Sure enough, we came back with momentum and won."
Arica Nassar led OSU with 16 kills and Camille Saxton and Sara Almen each recorded 13 kills in the effort. Saxton and Nassar each also put up four blocks against the Buffs.
The Buffs have a quick turnaround this week since they will play Washington State on Wednesday, Oct. 31, in Pullman, Wash. at 8 p.m. MT. They will then head to Seattle, Wash. for a contest against No. 5 Washington on Friday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. MT. Both matches will be televised live on the Pac-12 Network.