STANFORD, Calif. - University of Colorado freshman Alexis Austin recorded a career and match-high 19 kills, but it wasn't enough to overpower the No. 2 nationally ranked Stanford Cardinal as the Buffs fell 3-1 (21-25, 25-19, 25-13, 25-16) at Maples Pavilion on Wednesday night.
"With all the youth on the floor tonight amongst both teams, one could get an exciting glimpse of the future of the Pac-12," coach Liz Kritza said. "As these young players develop and become seasoned through tough competition in this league, the level of volleyball being played will be even more exciting for fans to watch."
Stanford improved to 26-3 overall and clinched the Pac-12 Conference title with an 18-1 record in league play. The Buffs are now 14-17 overall, 4-15 in the conference.
Austin started the match hot, recording seven kills while hitting .600. She had five more kills in the second and third sets, before notching just two in the final set. Austin hit .196 in the match with a career-high 51 swings and also had seven digs and a block assist.
"Alexis Austin showed tonight that she has progressed tremendously in her first season here and she put together a very nice match against tough competition," Kritza said. "She continues to carry a load offensively and responds very well to challenges as they arise. We look forward to seeing her continued improvement as she is a bright spot for the future of this program."
Neira Ortiz Ruiz was second for the Buffs with 11 kills. She posted three block assists and added four digs. Nikki Lindow was just under double-digits kills as she had nine in the effort and hit a team-best 500.
"Neira is working harder than ever and is developing nicely into a strong player in this league," said Kritza. "Her competitiveness fuels her fire to work and with each improved performance, she wants to be better and better. It was also good to see Lindow back atop the hitting percentage column tonight and she is working hard to improve as much as she can as the season winds down."
CU recorded a .182 attack percentage on the night and freshman Nicole Edelman handed out 46 assists. Freshman Madi Bugg directed Stanford to a .308 attack percentage with 22 assists. (Senior Karissa Cook recorded 16 assists for the Cardinal.)
"Tonight's match showcased two freshman setters who will be significant in the Pac-12 throughout their careers," Kritza explained. "Edelman's fiery approach to competition and willingness to work harder for improved results is important in the overall development of this program. She did a good job, especially in the first set, by keeping our offense running smoothly and getting hitters in position to score efficiently."
Chelsey Keoho recorded 13 of the 42 digs for the Buffs. Michelle Miller added six digs and Kelsey English picked up five digs for the Buffs. English also had a team-best four block assists. CU had 7.0 team blocks with Ortiz Ruiz and Lindow each added three block assists.
The Cardinal was led by Brittany Howard's 15 kills. Carly Wopat added nine kills and Rachel Williams recorded seven. Stanford hit .308 in the match.
The first set was played very tightly and neither team ever had a very large lead. Stanford was up 21-20 when the Buffs took two points in a row with a kill from Austin and a service ace from Lindow. The Cardinal called a timeout, but it didn't work as the Buffs took the following point with a kill from Ortiz Ruiz. After another Stanford timeout, CU finished the set quickly with two straight points (25-21).
The Buffs were on fire in the set, hitting .424, but SU also hit well at .438. Both teams recorded 17 kills in the set, as well as three errors. This was just the fourth set the Buffs have taken from the Cardinal in the all-time series. The two teams have met 10 times, including tonight, and Stanford has won all 10 meetings.
"Our group faced a big challenge tonight playing the top team in our league on their home floor and overall, we showed some moxie and individual players made strides that are important for the future as we continue to build," Kritza said. "We were able to battle to a win in the first set and some very competitive play throughout the remaining three."
CU stuck with the Cardinal during the majority of the second set. The Buffs trailed 14-10 and closed the gap to just a pair with two straight points, but Stanford came back to add to its lead. SU took a 21-16 lead, at which point CU burned its final timeout of the set. The Cardinal took two straight points out of the timeout and, despite a late 3-1 run from CU, finished the game 25-19.
Stanford took control of the third set, going up 9-2. CU tried to get its offense going, but was unable to get much going as the Cardinal finished the game 25-13. The Cardinal hit .500 with 13 kills and just two errors on 22 attacks and held the Buffs to .167 with 11 kills and six errors on 30 swings.
The Cardinal led CU 8-7 in the fourth set before putting together three straight points to take an 11-7 lead, causing the Buffs to use their first timeout of the set. SU took the first two points out of the break, but the Buffs answered back with a pair of their own (13-9). The Cardinal kept attacking and increased its lead to 19-11, forcing CU to use its final timeout of the set. The Buffs tried to get back in the set, but the deficit was too much and they fell 25-16.
Colorado will finish the 2012 season against Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. The match will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.