Wins won't come easily in the Pac-12 Conference for the Colorado volleyball team. That's why Sunday's missed opportunity might be one that stings the Buffaloes.
CU narrowly missed defeating its second ranked foe in four days, but instead the Buffs fell short in dropping a five-set decision against No. 14 USC at the CU Events Center. Coming off a five-set win Wednesday against Utah, the Buffs missed an opportunity to start 2-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since joining the league in 2012.
The Buffs haven't started 2-0 in any league since 2006 in the Big 12 Conference.
"When they pass well, they have two of the best outsides in the conference," CU coach Jesse Mahoney said. "Their middles scored well today. And then when they don't pass well, they can run those two outsides on the big set, and they scored really well on that. It's tough to get them out of system where they can't take swings.
"We had too many opportunities where we didn't get true swings. They got more swings and they were really effective."
While there remains much more volleyball to play for a CU club looking to build on its first Sweet 16 appearance in 20 years, the Buffs may eventually rue a missed opportunity at home.
In the opening week of Pac-12 play, the league featured seven teams ranked in the national top 25 and another three, including the Buffs, listed among the first six teams in others receiving votes. Eventually the Buffs play six of their final eight games on the road, and following next week's two-game trip to Washington the Buffs will play the next four games at home.
In short, taking care of business at the CU Events Center will be critical.
"Obviously we want to win at home, but I think every match in the Pac-12 is going to be tough because our conference is such a great conference," CU senior Alexa Smith said. "We put up a great fight against USC, but I think from here forward we just need to keep getting better."
USC used a 6-0 mid-set run to win the opening frame before the Buffs pulled even with a 27-25 win in the second set, twice surviving with the Trojans at set point. USC led throughout a 25-19 win in the third set, but the Buffs did the same in the fourth set, pulling even with a 25-21 win clinched by three consecutive points late by senior Naghede Abu.
The Trojans, though, broke a 4-4 tie in the decisive fifth set by scoring seven of the next eight points. CU rallied to pull within 12-9, but USC was able to hold off the Buffs for a 15-10 match-clinching decision.
Smith paced the Buffs' attack with 18 kills, while also adding 15 digs. Abu finished with 12 kills and four blocks.
"I thought it was probably a pretty exciting match to watch from the sidelines," Mahoney said. "A lot of offense and I thought both teams played really well. I'm proud of the fight that we had after that first set to get back into the match, and then to get to the fifth set. USC has got a lot of weapons and they definitely used them today."
CU fell to 1-16 all-time against USC. The Buffs had been 0-14 before winning at home last year, but the Trojans won the rematch later in the 2017 season. ... The Buffs play at Washington on Friday (7 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Network) and at Washington State on Sunday (1 p.m., MT).
No. 14 USC 3, Colorado 2
At CU Events CenterUSC (10-3, 2-0) 25 25 25 21 15
Kills — USC: Lanier 21, Botkin 19, Gross 17; CU: Al. Smith 18, An. Smith 13, Abu 12.
Blocks — USC: Baptista 4, Lazaro 4, Gross 4; CU: Abu 4, Price 4, An. Smith 3.
Assists — USC: Lazaro 58; CU: DeLuzio 24, Ewert 20.
Aces — USC: Gross 2, Lanier 2; CU: Spann 2, DeLuzio 2.
Digs — USC: Garrick 17, Lazaro 16; CU: DeLuzio 15, Al. Smith 15, Spann 12.