No. 25 Colorado volleyball at Washington State
WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m. MDT, Pullman, Wash.
RECORDS: CU 12-3, 2-2 Pac-12 Conference; WSU 12-4, 1-3.
BROADCAST: Pac-12 Network.
NOTES: The Buffs own a 9-3 record against Washington State and, despite a home loss last year, have won their past three road matches against the Cougars...CU senior Joslyn Hayes has posted double-digit totals in kills in the past three games and five out of the past six...WSU is coming off losses at USC and UCLA.
The Colorado volleyball team has adopted a one-game-at-a-time approach to the 2017 season after a rough run through the Pac-12 Conference a year ago.
That mindset always is a sound philosophy, particularly in a league that currently boasts seven teams among the top 25 in the nation. The Buffaloes, who returned to the polls at No. 25 this week, don't want to look too far ahead. Nevertheless, a four-game stretch of road games that begins Friday at Washington State likely will prove critical in the Buffs' quest to return to the NCAA Tournament.
"I think it's really big," CU coach Jesse Mahoney said. "We realize we have 16 matches left, so these next four don't define our season. The second half is more kind, schedule-wise, in my opinion, so we've got to work hard. Winning on the road is tough. Winning on the road in the league is this league is really tough. We've got to find ways to get wins out of these next four, no doubt."
The Buffs are coming off arguably their most impressive weekend of the season, outlasting Oregon State in five sets despite performing at less than peak form before topping then-No. 12 Oregon in four sets one night later.
The win against Oregon State could provide evidence of a Buffs team that is mentally tougher than a year ago. The Buffs were routed 25-7 in the fourth set, allowing the Beavers to push the match to set 5 with an upset on their minds. However, once that fourth frame got out of control Mahoney pulled the bulk of his starters, allowing them a chance to regroup. The Buffs took set 5 and improved to 3-1 in five-set matches.
CU was a solid 6-4 in five-set matches a year ago, but went only 3-3 in league play.
"That shows something about how our kids compete," Mahoney said. "I think when you can lose 25-7 and still win the next set...I think we've got a lot of confidence, if nothing else. We feel like we can play with anybody and we feel like we've shown that. There hasn't been a time this season where I feel like, 'Oh, we're defeated.' Which is good."
The Buffs follow the visit to Washington State with a trip to Seattle to face No. 9 Washington on Sunday. Next week CU Arizona State and Arizona.
"We're really just focusing on one game at a time," senior Joslyn Hayes said. "We're going to focus on Washington State first and then we'll handle Washington. Every single game is important. We can't really overlook (WSU) even though they're not ranked as high as Washington. That's what we have to keep focusing on, especially when we're away."