The Colorado volleyball team hasn't quite reached must-win territory, but the Buffaloes are getting there.
On Friday night, the Buffs were unable to stop their negative momentum, falling No. 13 Stanford in four sets, 25-19, 25-16, 14-25, 25-20, at Coors Events Center.
The Buffs (12-11, 4-9 Pac-12) have lost four in a row and continue to watch their window of opportunity narrow.
"We look at every match as an opportunity, and there are wins on the board for us if we want to go and get them," coach Jesse Mahoney said. "I wouldn't say it hurts (the postseason chances), it just puts a little bit more pressure on us and crystallizes the need for us to get better coming down the stretch."
Gabby Simpson had 10 kills, 15 assists and 11 digs and helped the Buffs rally late, but they didn't have enough in the tank to knock off the Cardinal (15-6, 9-4).
Led by Kathryn Plummer (20 kills, five blocks) and Audriana Fitzmorris (10 kills, eight blocks), Stanford controlled much of the match at the net. That duo played key roles in staking Stanford to a relatively easy 2-0 lead.
In the third, however, the Buffs turned the tide. They eliminated the mistakes that plagued them early and hit at a .407 clip.
"We did a lot of things really well and executed our game plan for an extended period of time," Mahoney said of the third set. "It was fun to see. We're a little Jekyll and Hyde at times and in that third for sure you can see how good we can be."
Junior Anna Pfefferle, who had seven blocks and six kills on the night, said it was more than solid execution that sparked the rally.
"In addition to just us focusing on those technical things and executing those, the overall energy on the court was a lot better," she said. "There's so much momentum in volleyball, and focusing on the positives rather than the negatives helped us a lot in the third set and just gave us more momentum and we used that to our advantage."
The Buffs carried that into the fourth set and jumped to a 7-4 lead.
"Down 2-0 and really not playing particularly well, there's a natural tendency to kind of give up, and we certainly didn't do that," Mahoney said. "I thought we played extremely well and responded. I think there's value to that."
The Cardinal rallied, though and scored five consecutive points and then pulled away late.
Now, the Buffs turn their focus to Sunday, when California pays a visit to Boulder.
"Every match is a big match," said junior Stephanie Shadley, who had eight kills. "We'll be preparing just as much as we were for this game and hoping to get a game plan done and execute."
Alexa Smith had 10 kills for the Buffs, while Kiara McKibben added 21 assists and Cierra Simpson had 16 digs.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.