Nicole Edelman (5) of CU, celebrates a point against Cal in September.
Nicole Edelman (5) of CU, celebrates a point against Cal in September. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

Watching the Colorado volleyball team, it's difficult to pinpoint the freshmen on the team.

That's a good sign for the Buffs, who are starting three true freshmen that are playing beyond their years. Alexis Austin leads the team in kills. Chelsey Keoho has worked her way into the starting lineup as a defensive specialist and has come up with crucial digs.

Then there's Nicole Edelman. The freshman setter from Fairview High School has had perhaps the biggest impact of any of the freshmen. Edelman is leading the team with 9.42 assists per set while also being on pace to post 100 kills. The last CU setter to top 100 kills was Ashley Nu'u in 2006.

What has set Edelman apart, though, is the leadership she has brought to the Buffs.

"As a setter I have an automatic leadership role, but I think the way all our personalities fit together on the court, it was just a really good fit for me," she said of becoming a leader. "I'm able to do my job a lot better when I'm communicating with back row and front row."

Despite being a freshman, Edelman has clearly been an emotional leader and a calming force on the court. She is routinely praised by teammates for the work she has done already.

"It's kind of natural," she said. "At the same time, I didn't want anyone to take it the wrong way, but I had to do it because it was needed for us to get better. My role is to keep everyone in line, get in everyone's faces. That's been the biggest thing I've had to do. It's getting a lot more comfortable as the season goes along."

Edelman said that even before this year she had played with or against many of her Buffs teammates, so, "They knew ahead of time what I was going to bring."

With Edelman leading the charge and several other Buffs having great seasons, CU is 12-6 with 14 matches to play -- already doubling their win total from a year ago.

It hasn't deterred Edelman's spirit that the Buffs have taken some lumps in Pac-12 play, going 2-4. Included in that are losses to Oregon and Washington, who were tied for No. 2 in the country in last week's American Volleyball Coaches Association poll. The poll had five Pac-12 teams in the top seven.

"Oh yeah, it's been an awesome experience," Edelman said. "I knew coming in that my freshman year was going to be tough. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I want to play against the best girls."

Striving for better

In the ongoing challenge to compete in the Pac-12, volleyball coach Liz Kritza is about done compiling her 2013 recruiting class.

"We've taken commitments in the positions that I feel like we need some help in and some depth," she said. "I'm happy with where we are recruiting wise."

Kritza said the Buffs have had three verbal commits to this point and would like to add one more. Per NCAA rules, Kritza is not allowed to talk about specific recruits. CU's 2013 class does, however, include a couple of players that ought to help strengthen the Buffs at the net: Katelyn Cuff, a 6-foot-2 middle blocker from Torrey Pines, Calif., and Joslyn Hayes, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker/outside hitter from Santa Monica, Calif.

CU will also get Kerra Schroeder back next year. The senior tore her ACL in the Buffs' second match and is likely to request a redshirt, allowing her to return in 2013. She was the Buffs' top hitter before the injury.

Making progress

At 0-4-1 in Pac-12 play, the CU soccer team doesn't take much consolation in the fact that it is at least competing well in conference games.

Three times already the Buffs have gone to overtime in Pac-12 games, going 0-2-1 in those contests. All four losses have come by a single goal, including Sunday's 2-1 loss to defending national champion Stanford, the No. 2 team in the country. CU had a 1-0 lead heading into the final 12 minutes.

While the Buffs aren't interested in the moral victories, Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said he certainly sees a different CU squad than the one that entered the Pac-12 in 2011.

"(CU's Danny Sanchez) is a great coach, he has them well-organized and they gave us a very difficult match today," said Ratcliffe, whose team defeated the Buffs 4-1 in 2011. "You can tell they're working very hard for the coach and for each other. That goes a long way.

"The conference matches are difficult. I feel a little bit sad for them because I know they've had so many close matches and they're barely losing, but I think that's going to reap benefits in the long run. A couple of these games down the line, they're going to get a little more luck and things are going to bounce their way and they'll get a result for sure."

Ratcliffe said the toughest job in soccer is finding success in the final third and putting goals on the board. It's something that even his squad is dealing with, he said. For CU, which has just four goals in five Pac-12 games, Ratcliffe said, "It's just a matter of time."

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