Colorado volleyball Omni Invitational
WHEN: CU vs. Wake Forest, Saturday, 1 p.m.; CU vs. Rice, Saturday, 7 p.m.; CU vs. Abilene Christian, Sunday, 11 a.m.
WHERE: Coors Events Center.
BROADCAST: Live stream available for all matches at Pac-12 Plus.
NOTABLE: The Buffs have never played Wake Forest or Abilene Christian...Saturday's action also includes a match between Rice and Abilene Christian at 10 a.m....The Buffs hit the road again next week for the Pac-12/Big 10 Challenge in Champaign, Ill. CU will face Penn State and Illinois.
It was a heated battle throughout the spring and preseason for the vacant setter position on the Colorado Buffaloes volleyball team.
Yet the meticulous number-crunching performed by coach Jesse Mahoney and his staff made the answer clear. The Buffs simply performed better when Brynna DeLuzio was controlling the offense.
DeLuzio's collegiate debut was one of several highlights during a strong opening weekend for the Buffs last week, as CU brings a 3-0 record into its home opener this weekend in the Omni Invitational. The Buffs host Wake Forest (1 p.m.) and Rice (7 p.m.) on Saturday before completing the tournament Sunday against Abilene Christian (11 a.m.).
"On the stat page, we score better when (DeLuzio) sets. That's the short version," Mahoney said. "The long version, she's a freshman but she's played at a really high level as a setter and as a libero. She's just kind of a gamer. I think we could throw her out there at a couple different positions and she'd succeed. She doesn't have any fear. She never seems nervous. And then, like I said, we just hit better when she sets."
DeLuzio arrives in Boulder from Windemere, Fla., where as a senior she earned second-team high school All-American honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association. DeLuzio was named the Class 4A Player of the Year in Florida after leading her high school, The First Academy, to the second state title of her prep career. She is the first CU volleyball recruit to call Florida home but her father's family has roots in Arvada as well as with Buffaloes athletics — her aunt, Denise, was a member of the first CU varsity volleyball team in 1986 and her father, Don, played football for the Buffs in the mid 1980s.
DeLuzio played like a veteran in her first attempt at following the family legacy, posting at least 40 assists in all three victories last week. That included a high of 45 against the host Sooners in the finale of the Oklahoma Invitational, and in the three wins DeLuzio also recorded 19 digs and a team-high five aces.
"It was an eye-opening experience, getting a taste of what college-level volleyball is like," DeLuzio said. "Overall I think I did well. Every match I progressed and ultimately got better each match. That was something interesting and exciting. I didn't really know coming here what I was going to be able to do."
DeLuzio wasn't the only newcomer to enjoy a solid opening weekend for the new-look Buffs. Sophomore libero Rachel Whipple played all 11 sets — three more than she logged her entire freshman season — and recorded 20 digs and four aces. Junior Frankie Shebby, who practiced with the Buffs last year but redshirted after transferring from Oregon, posted double-digit kills in all three matches and paced CU with 27 digs.
"Winning is always nice, so we liked that. But we were more efficient than I thought we'd be," Mahoney said. "We weren't playing Pac-12 matches, but Seton Hall and Oklahoma I think are solid-level programs. I was glad to see someone like (Alexa Smith) be as efficient as she was. It was good to see (Joslyn Hayes) have some of the matches that she did. We were really low-error offensively, so that was good to see.
"But we didn't pass well as a team, at all positions. We need to get better there. If we'd have done that we'd have been even more efficient."