The first week as a ranked team didn't quite go as planned for the Colorado volleyball team.
Still, after going toe-to-toe Sunday with one of the top programs in the nation, the Buffaloes should retain a solid measure of confidence despite remaining winless in the very early stages of Pac-12 Conference play.
On Sunday the No. 25-ranked Buffs came up just short in an entertaining match at the Coors Events Center, pushing defending national champion Stanford to the limit before suffering a 3-2 defeat.
With a 2-1 set lead late in the fourth set, the Buffs had the No. 4-ranked Cardinal at match point but couldn't close it out. Stanford then clinched the comeback win with a 15-12 decision in the decisive fifth set.
"Moral victories don't go on the chalkboard, but I thought we played extremely well in four of those five sets," CU head coach Jesse Mahoney said. "I thought that we executed the game plan very well. Our setter (Brynna DeLuzio) made very nice choices and I thought we played at a really consistently high level for a long period of time. We probably should have closed it out in set four.
"If we play like that and better, because I think we have another gear, we'll be in good places."
The Buffs, coming off a loss at No. 16 Utah in their league opener Friday, opened strong, using a 12-2 run early in the first set to pave the way for a 25-20 win. Set two was the only one-sided frame of the day, with Stanford evening the match with a 25-13 win, but the Buffs held off three Stanford opportunities at set point in the third frame before pulling ahead with a 29-27 win.
Junior outside hitter Alexa Smith helped power CU into the lead, posting 12 of her match-high 25 kills in the third set. Smith's total matched a career-high set during last week's comeback win at Colorado State, and with a team-leading 12 digs Smith also recorded her fifth consecutive game with at least 10.
"I owe it to my teammates, especially Brynna. She's the one who sets up the offense," Smith said. "But I owe it to the other hitters out there with me. They're the ones who are pulling the block away from me. So I was able to kind of get on a run out there just because of them."
The Buffs led the fourth set 25-24 with a chance to secure the victory but couldn't follow through, eventually fending off two Stanford chances at set point before the Cardinal finally secured a 29-27 win to again even the match. The Cardinal then used a 7-2 run midway through the fifth set to take control.
CU senior Joslyn Hayes also matched a career-high with 16 kills, while DeLuzio topped the 50-assist mark for the fourth time in five games with 52. Four players tallied double-figure kills for Stanford, an effort led by Kathryn Plummer's 18. The Cardinal also received 17 kills apiece from Tami Alade and 6-foot-8 senior Merete Lutz, both of whom gave the Buffs fits at the net defensively as well.
"(Lutz) is a phenomenal player and she's got height and athleticism," Hayes said. "It was difficult going against her but not impossible. It was exciting to go against her because we knew we could keep up with a player of that caliber. But we weren't sharp in all the plays we played against her."
Stanford 3, Colorado 2
At Coors Events CenterStanford (9-2, 2-0)2025272915Colorado (10-3, 0-2)2513292712
Kills — Stanford: Plummer 18, Lutz 17, Alade 17, McClure 10; CU: Smith 25, Hayes 16, Shebby 12.
Blocks — Stanford: Alade 9, Plummer 6, Lutz 5; CU: Abu 6, Shebby 3, DeLuzio 3, Pfefferle 3.
Assists — Stanford: Gray 64; CU: DeLuzio 52.
Aces — Stanford: Plummer 2; CU: Pfefferle 2, Whipple 1.
Digs — Stanford: Plummer 19, Hentz 18, McClure 14; CU: Smith 12, Shebby 11, DeLuzio 11, Carta-Samuels 11.