CU volleyball schedule

Note: Home matches in CAPS

Aug. 29 — vs. Northwestern, 4 p.m.@

Aug. 30 — at Northern Illinois, 11 a.m.@

Aug. 30 — vs. Presbyterian, 4 p.m.@

Sept. 5 — PORTLAND STATE, 7 p.m.#

Sept. 6 — GEORGIA SOUTHERN, 12 p.m.#

Sept. 6 — PITTSBURGH, 7:30 p.m.#

Sept. 12 — IDAHO STATE, 7 p.m.%

Sept. 13 — ROBERT MORRIS, 12 p.m.%

Sept. 13 — BUTLER, 6 p.m.%

Sept. 19 — vs. South Dakota, 3:30 p.m.$

Sept. 20 — vs. Illinois, 9 a.m.$

Sept. 20 — at Creighton, 6:30 p.m.$

Sept. 25 — UTAH, 7 p.m.*

Sept. 27 — at Oregon, 8 p.m.*

Oct. 3 — ARIZONA STATE, 6 p.m.*

Oct. 5 — ARIZONA, 2 p.m.*

Oct. 10 — at USC, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 — at UCLA, 12 p.m.*

Oct. 17 — STANFORD, 7 p.m.*

Oct. 19 — CALIFORNIA, 12 p.m.*

Oct. 24 — at Washington State, 8 p.m.*

Oct. 26 — at Washington, 2 p.m.*

Oct. 31 — at Arizona, 7 p.m.*

Nov. 2 — at Arizona State, 12 p.m.*

Nov. 6 — UCLA, TBA*

Nov. 9 — USC, 12 p.m.*


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Nov. 13 — WASHINGTON, 6 p.m.*

Nov. 16 — WASHINGTON STATE, 12 p.m.*

Nov. 21 — at California, 8 p.m.*

Nov. 22 — at Stanford, 8 p.m.*

Nov. 26 — OREGON STATE, 3 p.m.*

Nov. 28 — at Utah, TBA*

@ Northern Illinois Invitational

# Omni Hotels Colorado Volleyball Classic

% Omni Hotels Invitational

$ Creighton Classic

* Pac-12 Conference match

Three years ago, the Colorado volleyball program sat at the bottom of the Pac-12 Conference.

Head coach Liz Kritza believed better times were on the way, though, and she managed to convince some talented players to believe in her vision.

That talent now has CU on the rise as it begins year No. 6 under Kritza's guidance.

"We've got a group of really talented young women that have worked really hard and are very, very focused," Kritza said Saturday at CU's annual media day. "If we continue on that path and we stay healthy, we're going to like a lot of the things we're going to see this season."

The Buffs were a combined 19-66 in Kritza's first three years, from 2009-11, but made a jump to 14-18 in 2012 and got even better last year. They finished 18-14 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2013, utilizing a good mix of experienced veterans and talented youngsters.

"To make the changes we had to make in the program, it took some time," Kritza said. "The recruiting piece was huge for us. One of the big pieces was getting the best players in Colorado to play for Colorado."

The Buffs landed Kelsey English from Doherty High School and then setter Nicole Edelman from Fairview. Last year, Doherty's Cierra Simpson signed on, as did her older sister Taylor, who transferred from Missouri. This year, another Simpson sister, Gabby, has joined the squad.

"We have some of the strongest players in the last few classes now in Colorado Buffs jerseys," Kritza said. "That's pretty significant."

Add in some great out-of-state talent, such as Alexis Austin, Neira Ortiz Ruiz and Katelyn Cuff and the Buffs now have a roster that can compete in the toughest conference in the country.

"We do have expectation this year, because we do have a bigger target on our back," said Edelman, a junior. "We do expect more out of ourselves and out of each other this year."

Prior to last year, CU had not produced a winning season since 2006, so it took some faith for players such as Edelman and Taylor Simpson to come aboard.

"I knew that we had potential," Simpson said. "We had Nicole, we had Alexis Austin. Coming in I didn't have very high expectations, but I knew that something special was going to happen and that we could do something very awesome in the postseason."

Although they lost key seniors Nikki Lindow and Kerra Schroeder to graduation, the Buffs aren't starving for talent.

This season, the Buffs were picked by Pac-12 coaches to finish seventh. In a conference that typically sends as many as nine teams to the NCAA Tournament, seventh isn't bad — especially for a team that went 1-21 in Pac-12 matches in 2011.

With the talent she has collected in recent years, though, Kritza sees even better things for her team.

"I firmly believe that if things go as we plan them to and we stay healthy, we can achieve a much higher ranking than that," she said.

No longer at the bottom of the conference, the Buffs believe they are just getting started. They expect more than they have in recent years, and they hope future recruits expect more, too.

"What really determines it for us (when looking for recruits) is if they have that fire, if they're gutsy, if they want to win, if they want to do something significant, because that's the direction where this program is going," Kritza said. "It's a point where we can do something very significant in the program's and in the institution's history, as far as this sport goes."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.