The University of Colorado volleyball team felt deserving of an NCAA tournament berth in 2015 but the selection committee disagreed.
When the dust settled on their 19-13 season, the Buffaloes were one of several bubble teams left out of the NCAA bracket. At Colorado's media day on Friday, the players in attendance were adamant that they are focused on not putting themselves in the same position this year.
Their goals is to avoid the bubble altogether.
"Obviously it was devastating not making it to the tournament, especially after making it the past two years," Buffaloes senior Cierra Simpson said. "But I think the mindset we're coming into with this year as a whole is putting ourselves in a position where we know we're in the tournament, we're not even on the bubble and it's not going to come down to crossing our fingers at the last minute.
"There are a lot of things we can do early in the season, especially with nonconference matches, to make sure that we aren't in a situation where, like I said, we won't be crossing our fingers or anything like that."
Looking to play their way back in the NCAA tournament after qualifying in both 2013 and 2014, the Buffaloes will be doing so under first-year head coach Jesse Mahoney. Hired in December, Mahoney was the head coach at the University of Denver for the past four seasons, leading the Pioneers to an 88-41 record and back-to-back NCAA tournament berths in 2014 and 2015. His return to CU brings his coaching career full-circle, having gotten his start as the head coach of the CU men's club volleyball team from 1995-98.
The Buffs also are carrying an 18-player roster, which is bigger than Mahoney has had in the past. With such a large roster and a new head coach, the Buffs may need some extra time for players to fall into roles and for the new faces to adjust to Mahoney's coaching style.
"I haven't been around the team yet because we don't start until next week but from everything that I've heard, I think the players are getting along really well," Mahoney said. "As we go through fall camp, there's 18 kids and only so many can play so I think it's going to be competitive. I think if we turn that the right way, it's a really good thing."
Whoever ends up in what roles for the Buffs in 2016, the goal is definitely to get back to the NCAA tournament after being passed over last winter.
"It motivated us," junior setter Gabby Simpson said. "Not making the tournament was unfortunate but we're all really excited for the season because not making it was so hard on all of us."