Suffice it to say that this wasn't the way the Colorado volleyball team wanted to go out in its 2016 home finale.

On senior day at the Coors Events Center, the Buffs not only lost, but they were swept at home in three sets for the first time in more than 13 months.

Washington State, ranked No. 26 in the nation, avenged a home loss to CU -- the Buffs' only road victory of the season so far -- with a 25-23, 25-20, 25-14 victory before a crowd of 1,444.

In the third set, "on the court, it felt like everything imploded," said second-year captain Cierra Simpson, one of four Buffs playing their home finale. "We couldn't really make anything happen offensively or defensively. I think we started to go into our own little shells. The communication completely stopped. ... I feel like that's really the first time that happened, like 'Oh my God the sky is falling' in a set for our team. We now know what it feels like and we don't want to feel that way anymore."

A point in the middle of the second set symbolized CU's woes as a high set in the middle of the Buffs' court awkwardly fell to the floor in the midst of several bewildered-looking CU players.

The loss dropped the Buffs to 13-15 (5-13 in Pac-12 action). If they lose either or both of their remaining two matches -- at Arizona State on Wednesday and at Utah on Friday -- they'll finish with a losing record for the first time since 2012.

Indeed, the Buffs are in the midst of their worst prolonged slump in four years, having dropped eight of their last nine matches. Injuries certainly haven't helped. For instance on Sunday the Buffs played without one of their most valuable players, junior Gabby Simpson, for the third straight match as back problems will sideline her for the final two weeks of the season. And, of course, running the gauntlet of the Pac-12 -- a conference which features five of the nation's top 20 teams -- doesn't help.


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"I think that when we were healthy, we were a really good team," said first-year CU head coach Jesse Mahoney. "Our health degenerated throughout the season. Gabby is such a focus for us. We run the offense through her. As a setter and as an attacker, she is just such a large part of what we do and you can see that in the last several matches. ... It's tough to replace a kid that's probably one of the best in the conference. That's been part of it.

"We play great competition every night. This isn't a league where you can be limping along and grind out wins. You have to be going on all cylinders to compete."

On Sunday, CU finished with a season-low attacking percentage of .051 against Washington State, which improved to 20-10 (10-8 in the Pac-12).

The Buffs bolted out to an 8-4 lead in the first set, but that was one of the few highlights of the match. Washington State went on an 8-1 run to take a lead it wouldn't relinquish. CU battled back from a 23-17 deficit with five straight points, but WSU closed out the set with a dink by Casey Schoenlein.

In sets 2 and 3, Colorado never led.

"(Senior day) is a special night, whether you're a senior or not," Cierra Simpson said. "You're celebrating teammates and usually it's a night where there's a lot more energy. But it just didn't really seem that way tonight."

Sophomore Alexa Smith notched eight kills to lead the Buffs, while junior Stephanie Shadley added seven to go along with 10 digs. Simpson posted a dozen digs, extending her CU career record total to 1,815. She also owns the program record for sets played during her career, with 484.

Joining Simpson in being recognized before the match on senior day were Katelyn Cuff, Kiara McKibben and Marie Zimmerman.

"I think this type of loss, especially on senior night, will resonate with the underclassmen," Cuff said. "We're definitely bummed but we've had a great career and a great time with this program."