Unable to put together an extended winning streak in the rugged Pac-12 Conference schedule, yet talented and effective enough to go on victorious mini-runs while pulling off the occasional win against a ranked opponent, the CU volleyball team is sitting exactly where one might expect.

Smack in the middle of the Pac-12 standings.

That still might be good enough to make the cut when NCAA tournament berths are announced roughly a month from now, but the Buffaloes obviously want more. An opportunity to make a significant move begins tonight, as CU embarks on a stretch of five consecutive matches against top-20 teams at No. 9 UCLA.

The Buffs continue their west coast swing with a showdown at No. 2 USC Friday night.

"I think it's hard to say (CU) is up and down because the Pac-12 is always up," said Pac-12 Networks volleyball analyst Amy Gant, a Colorado native and former BYU All-American who will be on the call tonight for the network's Match of the Week telecast of the showdown.

"Looking at them, they've probably played the most five-set matches as anyone in the conference. That tells me they're right there. They're not getting hammered by teams. I like their team. They're very athletic. They have great fight. And Nicole Edelman is a great on-court leader."

CU follows its Southern California trip with home dates next week against No. 20 Arizona State and No. 19 Arizona. The Buffs were swept by UCLA at home on Oct. 11, but two nights earlier pushed the then-top-ranked USC Trojans to five sets in an upset bid that fell just short.


CU is just one of three teams to extend the Trojans to five sets this season. USC had been unbeaten and ranked No. 1 until a loss at No. 3 Washington last weekend.

"For us, when we aren't playing at our best for whatever reason...there's a frustration that exists because these players know that they're top-level players, that they're a top-level team that can play with and against anybody," CU coach Liz Kritza said. "Understanding how to regroup a little bit faster and not let a run of a couple runs of points go on the board is something we have to go back and work on."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07