The Colorado Buffaloes volleyball team has turned in some memorable moments so far this season, most notably with three victories against top-20 foes at the Coors Events Center.
However, if the Buffs don't soon correct a growing case of road woes, a season that started so promisingly might once again end without an NCAA tournament berth.
The Buffs face another tall order on the road this weekend with a date at No. 13 Washington State on Friday followed by a visit to No. 7 Washington on Sunday.
"We know what we're capable of what we're doing and we can't give up road opportunities," senior Cierra Simpson said. "It's still early in the season and the league is really good this year, which is good for us. We've just got to try and take it as a kick in the pants almost and a wake-up call that we have work to do and we don't have time to waste. Now it's just a matter of putting it into practice."
The Buffs are coming off two road losses, dropping a match at No. 12 Stanford before suffering a far more disturbing loss at Cal, a club that entered the match with an 0-5 mark in Pac-12 Conference play. The Golden Bears' three set wins against CU were one more than they put together in their five previous conference matches combined.
While CU has earned three neutral-court wins away from home, the losses at Stanford and Cal left the Buffs with an 0-4 mark in true road games. Obviously most teams are prone to playing better at home than on the road, but CU's 2-2 mark in a Pac-12-opening run of four consecutive home games leaves the Buffs with little margin for error in their quest to return to the NCAA Tournament after last year's near-miss.
Since reaching an 8-2 mark with a win against Colorado State in the nonconference finale on Sept. 17, the Buffs have gone 2-4.
"I don't know if anything is in our players' heads. Everyone plays better at home and I think that's part of it," head coach Jesse Mahoney said. "We're not reading too much into one match. We know each match is going to be tough whether it's home or away. We're just looking to get better every day in practice."
The Buffs played without Joslyn Hayes at Cal after the junior outside hitter suffered an injury at Stanford. Hayes, who ranks third on the team in kills and leads CU's regulars with a .311 attack percentage, is expected to remain sidelined this weekend. Her absence at Cal gave more playing time to freshman Justine Spann, but Mahoney hinted there might be further tweaks to the rotation this weekend.
"We need to fill Joslyn's position. We kind of did that how we thought best (at Cal) but we'll look at a couple different options this week," Mahoney said. "What we've been doing all year has been effective. We just need to take care of the easy stuff a little bit better and make some of the tougher plays a little more often."