It has been a crash-course for a revamped Colorado volleyball rotation so far this season, with the Buffaloes playing their first six matches over just 10 days.
With the level of competition about to rise dramatically, the Buffs made a best-case scenario out of the schedule crunch, dispatching all three of their opponents in the annual Omni Invitational with sweeps while taking advantage of a chance to rest a few regulars along the way.
The Buffs completed that run on Sunday, posting a 25-19, 25-20, 25-20 sweep of Abilene Christian in the finale of the Omni Invitational. CU improved to 6-0 for the first time since 2008, though the schedule takes a significant turn next weekend in the annual Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge with dates against No. 5 Penn State and host Illinois.
Head coach Jesse Mahoney was able to rest some of his starters against a Wildcats team that fell to 1-5. In Mahoney's version of the "Sunday lineup" commonly utilized in Major League Baseball, CU kills leaders Alexa Smith and Frankie Shebby did not play at all, with senior Stephanie Shadley and sophomore Justine Spann taking their places in the starting lineup.
Joslyn Hayes, who entered the match ranked third on the team in kills, played sparingly in just one set.
"It's tough because we have a lot of talented kids on our roster and the left side position is really deep on our team," Mahoney said. "I don't think there's a let-off when these two (Shadley and Spann) are on the floor. It was good to give them an opportunity. I'm sure they enjoyed playing and they played really well."
Shadley was a regular starter for the Buffs last year, but with Shebby regaining her eligibility after a redshirt season, Shadley has so far been forced to adjust to a diminished role. Given an opportunity on Sunday, however, Shadley thrived, posting team-high totals of 11 kills and 14 digs. Spann finished with nine kills and 11 digs.
Standout middle blocker Naghede Abu was one regular who remained a fixture in the middle of the floor for the Buffs, and she finished with five blocks and eight kills. Freshman setter Brynna DeLuzio enjoyed another solid effort, sharing the team lead with 14 digs alongside 38 assists.
"I feel like wherever I am out there it's always fun," said Shadley, who had posted just four kills over four sets this season prior to Sunday's effort. "We have a really awesome group this year and we're having so much fun together."
While the Buffs have perhaps exceeded expectations with their undefeated start, the date against No. 5 Penn State on Friday in Champaign, Ill., will provide a more accurate gauge of where CU stands with the Pac-12 Conference opener less than three weeks away. The Nittany Lions likely will get a boost in this week's national poll after defeating top-ranked Stanford in four sets on Friday.
"Illinois is not ranked right now but they will be after this weekend. They've been crushing the teams they've played," Mahoney said. "Penn State beat Stanford earlier this weekend. These are two great teams. That's why we love the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge. It's going to be a dogfight and I think we'll be excited to get out there and play against those teams."
Colorado 3, Abilene Christian 0
At Coors Events CenterAbilene Christian (1-5) 19 20 20
Kills — AC: Smith 13, Mueller 7, Walker 7; CU: Shadley 11, Spann 9, Abu 8.
Blocks — AC: Walker 5, Bosse 2; CU: Abu 5, Shadley 2.
Assists — AC: Bosse 27; CU: DeLuzio 38.
Aces — AC: Bosse 1, Grandcolas 1; CU: Spann 1, Carta-Samuels 1.
Digs — AC: Chapa 18, Drever 12, Bosse 11; CU: DeLuzio 14, Shadley 14, Spann 11.