It has been a complete reversal of fortune for the Colorado volleyball team.
A year ago at this time the Buffaloes were barely treading water in the Pac-12 Conference, a struggle that eventually led to a late run of losses in nine of 10 games.
The Buffs are writing a far different script this season. On Friday night CU made quick work of No. 11 Washington, dispatching the Huskies with a 25-22, 25-18, 25-22 sweep. It was the Buffs' fourth consecutive victory and their seventh in their past eight contests.
The Buffs also have won three of their past four matches against ranked opponents.
"I think last year we were injured the second half of Pac-12 play and weren't firing on all cylinders," said second-year head coach Jesse Mahoney. "Kind of the first year through with the group, understanding how we want to game plan and how we want to attack certain teams. I think this time through we've been healthy. We're a year older, a year wiser. And really the last three weeks our kids have been all over it game-planning before matches and then adjusting in matches.
"We've been ahead of the other team tactically the past couple of matches."
CU was in control for much of the night, breaking a 19-19 tie late in set 1 to pull out a 25-22 win. The second set was tied 13-13 before the Buffs gained control with a 7-1 run. Washington answered with three consecutive points to pull within 20-17, but CU was able to take a two-set advantage by putting together a 5-1 run to close out a 25-18 win.
The Huskies led 8-4 early in set 3 before the Buffs stormed back with a 7-2 run. Washington remained within 23-21 late in the frame with a chance to extend the match, but a pair of kills by CU senior Joslyn Hayes secured the Buffs' second consecutive victorious sweep and their ninth of the season.
"I think it's just the synergy we have between each other and having the confidence of knowing that if we make a mistake we can bounce back," Hayes said. "I commend the coaches because they set us up for success. I think the turnaround really just goes to knowing what we're supposed to be doing and implementing it."
Hayes posted her first double-digit effort in kills since Sept. 30, finishing with 12, while junior Alexa Smith paced the CU offense with 14 kills. Freshman setter Brynna DeLuzio briefly went to the sideline in the first set with an ankle injury but still finished with 21 assists. Redshirt freshman Emily DeMure was called upon to spell DeLuzio and responded by posting a season-best 13 assists.
"We always say we want to continue to get better. Last year we said that but didn't really follow through with that," Smith said. "Tonight you saw that being done. I think we definitely owe that to all the coaches because they do set us up for success. Lee (Maes) and Jesse and Evan (Sanders) spend so many hours scouting these teams and really set us up and tell us what to do. We just have to go out there and do it at this point."
Colorado 3, No. 11 Washington 0
At Coors Events CenterWashington (18-6, 8-5) 22 18 22
Colorado (19-6, 9-5)25 25 25
Kills — Washington: Schwan 12, Jones 8; CU: Smith 14, Hayes 12, Shebby 9.
Blocks — Washington: Schwan 2, Niece 2; CU: Shebby 2, Hayes 2, Pfefferle 2.
Assists — Washington: Tanner 17, Finau 12; CU: DeLuzio 21, DeMure 13.
Aces — Washington: Scambray 2; CU: Smith 2, DeLuzio 1.
Digs — Washington: Scambray 9, Schwan 9, McPherson 8; CU: Smith 12, Shebby 9, Carta-Samuels 8.