Colorado improved to 7-1 this season after defeating Illinois in a five-set thriller Saturday on the second day of the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge in Champaign, Ill.

The Buffs and Fighting Illini played a very close match, with four of the five sets decided by two points. CU won the first (25-23) and third sets (28-26), while UI took the second (26-24) and fourth (25-12). The fifth and deciding set went extra points with the Buffs earning the exciting 17-15 win.

Four Buffs recorded double-digit kills in the victory. Alexa Smith tallied a season-best 19 kills, while Naghede Abu had 15 kills with a match-high .619 hitting efficiency with just two errors on 21 attacks. Frankie Shebby had 14 kills and Anna Pfefferle tallied 11 kills. Pfefferle also hit quite well (.500) with two errors on 18 swings.

Colorado's defense was also spread out with three Buffs recording 10 or more digs. Gabby Carta-Samuels led the Buffs with 17 and Brynna DeLuzio recorded a career-high 15 digs. Smith had 12 digs to record her second double-double this season. At the net, Abu posted six block assists and Joslyn Hayes added three block assists to go with her eight kills.

Illinois had the offensive edge, hitting .310. The Illini had 72 kills and 20 errors on 168 attacks. CU hit .261 with 70 kills and 22 errors on 184 attacks. UI also led in blocks, posting 12.0 to CU's 7.0, and totaled more digs than the Buffs (76-61). Both teams had eight aces in the match.


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The Buffs return to Colorado for the final weekend of nonconference action. CU will host Xavier at 7 p.m. on Friday and on Sept. 16, CU will head to Fort Collins to face Albany and Colorado State.