The Colorado volleyball team certainly didn't expect to have to deal with a nail-biting finish on Wednesday afternoon.
Yet, with their postseason hopes hanging in the balance, the Buffaloes found a way to avoid a crushing defeat.
Alexis Austin notched her 24th and final kill on the last point to lift CU to a 19-25, 25-13, 25-20, 19-25, 18-16 victory against Washington State at Coors Events Center.
"We're pleased that we won and not anywhere close to pleased with the manner in which we won," head coach Liz Kritza said. "We just made it really hard on ourselves for no reason."
Sitting squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble, the Buffs (18-13, 10-9 Pac-12) can't afford another loss, especially to the ninth-place Cougars (16-15, 5-14).
Washington State came ready to play, though, and had match point twice in the final set.
"We had to just remain calm and not panic," said Austin, who had seven kills in the deciding set. "When we're in those tough points, it's honestly one point at a time. You can't think about anything further besides that one point. We did a good job of keeping calm around those sets."
On the final point, Anna Pfefferle had a match-saving dig to set up Austin's match-clinching kill.
"It was big on Anna's part, because defense was one of our main focuses in this game," Austin said. "To see her back there and actually getting balls up and giving all of her effort, that was a big up for us. When I saw that, it's my mission to make sure I kill the ball. I have to make sure I put that point away."
It was a point the Buffs desperately needed. Sitting at No. 66 in the RPI rankings, the Buffs likely have no room for error if they are to make a third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
"It's a must win for us," Kritza said. "The only thing we can do to affect (their NCAA chances) is make sure we continue to win."
Gabby Simpson had 19 kills and nine digs, Pfefferle had 14 kills and five digs, Nicole Edelman had 55 assists and Cierra Simpson had 24 digs. ... Kyra Holt had 15 kills, 11 digs and six blocks for the Cougars, while McKenna Woodford added 13 kills and 12 digs. ... CU closes the regular season by hosting Utah on Friday at noon. ... The NCAA tournament selection show is Sunday at 7 p.m. ... Edelman leads a group of five Buffaloes receiving Pac-12 all-academic honors. Edelman was named to the second team, while teammates junior Cierra Simpson, and sophomores Pfefferle, Stephanie Shadley and Gabby Simpson were named honorable mention.