Xavier at Colorado volleyball
WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m., Coors Events Center.
RECORDS: Xavier 4-6; CU 7-1.
BROADCAST: Live stream available at Pac-12.com/live/cubuffs.
NOTES: CU has never played Xavier...The Buffs continue a busy weekend with games against Albany and No. 22 Colorado State in Fort Collins...CU broke a seven-game losing streak in the rivalry series with the Rams last year, but the Buffs also have lost 10 in a row against CSU in Fort Collins...CU opens Pac-12 play next week at Utah.
Not that she advertises this fact around campus, but there frequently are situations when Gabby Carta-Samuels isn't cheering for the Colorado Buffaloes. One of them might unfold next week at Folsom Field.
As the youngest sibling of an athletic family that includes two highly-competitive older brothers, Carta-Samuels, a junior for the CU volleyball team, is accustomed to battling. It's a trait she has brought to the floor this fall as the Buffs' new starting libero.
Discuss the football team at a certain Pac-12 Conference rival, however, and Carta-Samuels' allegiances are torn. Next week, when No. 6 Washington visits Folsom Field in a rematch of last year's league title game, Huskies starting quarterback Jake Browning will be any sort of injury away from turning his spot over to Carta-Samuels' brother, UW backup KJ Carta-Samuels.
Her oldest brother, Austyn, also played quarterback at Wyoming before finishing his career at Vanderbilt.
"In my family we always kind of joke that I'm the littlest, but my competitive edge has always been first or second," Carta-Samuels said. "It just made me a better athlete, a better person. My family is absolutely everything to me.
"It's tough though. I have two families — my Buff family and my real family. We'll see. It happened in high school all the time too because we went to rival high schools. For volleyball, it will always be Colorado. For football...it kind of depends. We went to the Pac-12 championship in my hometown last year and that was crazy. We hope that my brother plays well but that the Buffs win."
Obviously Gabby Carta-Samuels' allegiance to CU is undisputed on the volleyball floor, and her ability to step into the libero role has been a key component to the Buffs' 7-1 start. After spending the past two seasons in backup role while biding her time behind Cierra Simpson, Carta-Samuels began the season sharing the libero spot with Iowa State transfer Branen Berta.
When Berta opted to leave the team following the season's opening weekend, Carta-Samuels stepped into the spotlight and has acquitted herself well. She backed her career-best 19 digs during the opening weekend at Oklahoma with 15 digs against Rice and 17 in the Buffs' thrilling five-set win last week at Illinois.
"The last two years I didn't have to necessarily have to worry about performing as much, so I could really focus on learning the new system and improving," Carta-Samuels said. "I really it took it upon myself those two years to make sure I got better every day so that when my time did come, I would be able to perform for my team. It's been incredible. I feel like I have myself again. I'm back to the role I've always been in and wanted. I'm just happy I've been able to contribute, because that's what I wanted to do when I committed here."
It will be a busy weekend for the Buffs, who play their final three nonconference dates in a 24-hour span. That run opens Friday night at the Coors Events Center with a visit from Xavier, followed by matches against Albany (11 a.m.) and No. 22 Colorado State (7 p.m.) Saturday in Fort Collins.
"With Xavier, we're going to have a physical advantage but they try to negate that with the tempo of their offense," CU head coach Jesse Mahoney said. "Some people think that we're fast, but they're faster. They're as fast as you're going to see and when it clicks it looks really impressive. We have to work hard to get them out of their system to make sure it's not clicking a whole lot."