The Colorado volleyball team knew they entered this weekend on the outside of the NCAA Tournament rankings, so two wins against ranked teams were vital.
After a spirited five-set match against No. 21 Arizona State, the Buffaloes are still alive and have a stronger case to be one of the 64 teams in the tournament field.
Senior Nicole Edelman had a career-high 63 assists and senior Alexis Austin had 22 kills as the Buffs rallied to win the last two sets and beat the Sun Devils 27-25, 13-25, 21-25, 25-17, 15-12.
"It's huge," junior Cierra Simpson said. "Arizona State had a really good RPI so that win helps us a lot in bumping up our RPI. We have to take care of business Saturday. I think we'll be feeling confident going in."
The Buffs (15-12, 7-8 Pac-12) host No. 19 Arizona on Saturday.
Thursday's match was close throughout, and no more so than in the fifth set with everything on the line for the Buffs. Colorado trailed 10-7 when they got tough and wrested the set away from the Sun Devils.
Kills by sophomores Stephanie Shadley and Anna Pfefferle got them within one and then Austin came through with two more kills to put the Buffs ahead 11-10.
The Sun Devils (18-8, 7-8) set up for a big hit by BreElle Bailey, but her kill was long down the left side. One official called it out but there was some confusion, so the officials deliberated for a brief period before upholding the original call.
"A match doesn't hinge on one particular call," coach Liz Kritza said. "The momentum does. We were confident because I saw the down official call the ball. I was fairly certain it would go our way."
The Sun Devils got within one, but three kills — the last by Edelman — gave the Buffs the win.
"Our passing was great tonight," she said. "We got our middles going. Once I got them going, I could set both of the pins. It's all credit to the passing."
Edelman's only other kill gave CU a 27-25 win in the first set, but the Sun Devils recovered quickly to take the second set, 25-13.
The Buffs started strong in the third set, leading by three early, but the Sun Devils stormed back take the set and a 2-1 lead.
The Buffs rallied in the fourth set to keep the match alive. Austin and junior Katelyn Cuff had two kills each as CU went on an 11-3 run to send it to a decisive fifth set.
Austin had six kills in the fourth set.
"For me to get those kills, it pumps up everyone else and the momentum keep going," she said. "It was all about building momentum and I felt it was a turning point. We wanted to carry that momentum in the fifth set."
They'll carry even more momentum — and a chance to improve their NCAA credentials — into Saturday's matchup with the Wildcats.
CU 3, Arizona State 2
At Coors Events CenterArizona State (18-8, 7-8) 25 25 25 17 12 CU (15-12, 7-8) 27 13 21 25 15
Kills — Arizona State: C. Pickrell 13, Bailey 10, Follette 9; CU: Austin 22, G. Simpson 16, Pfefferle 14.
Blocks — Arizona State: Koonts 1, MacLean 1, Binns 1; CU: Edelman 1, Abu 1, Shadley 1.
Assists — Arizona State: Arellano 22, K. Pickrell 21; CU: Edelman 63, C. Simpson 3.
Aces — Arizona State: MacLean 2, C. Pickrell 1; CU: Edelman 2.
Digs — Digs — Arizona State: Harker 15, Arellano 12, MacLean 10, C Pickrell 10; CU: C. Simpson 23, Edelman 9, Shadley 9, Austin 6.
CU lands prep stars
CU coach Liz Kritza announced the signing of two prep standouts as part of the 2016 volleyball class.
Lauren Dorrell (Brentwood, Tenn.) and Justine Spann (Chandler, Ariz.) have each signed on to join the Colorado volleyball program next season.
One of the nation's top recruits, Dorrell, a 6-foot outside hitter, was heavily recruited by many schools, including Stanford, Virginia, Arizona State, North Carolina and Louisville. Spann, a 5-10 outside hitter, was also heavily recruited and chose CU over schools that included USC.