Colorado volleyball coach Jesse Mahoney didn't hesitate to pull out the challenge card late in the fourth set on Saturday night at Coors Events Center.
Senior Joslyn Hayes had an attack that was called out by referees and would have put Arizona State within a point of pulling off a major upset.
After a review, the call was reversed, CU got the point and then rallied for a five-set victory over the Sun Devils, 26-28, 25-16, 24-26, 25-23, 15-11.
"(The Sun Devils) definitely made life tough for us," Mahoney said after the Buffs (21-8, 11-7 Pac-12) avoided a bad loss against ASU (10-20, 0-18).
It was the challenge near the end of set No. 4 that seemed to give the Buffs some new life. Had the original call stood, ASU would have been serving for the match with a 24-22 lead. Instead, it was ruled that the ball hit the finger tips of an ASU blocker, tying the set at 23-23.
"The best vantage point to ref a match is from right where the coaches stand, because you can see everything," Mahoney said. "That sounds like a joke, but it's actually true. You have a better view point of that than where the where the refs stand. You could see the ball glance off the blockers' hand and change direction, so yeah, that was a pretty easy one to call. A pivotal point, of course."
CU won the next two points to take the set. In fact, the Buffs were down 22-19 at one point in that set before winning six of the last seven points.
"I think those last four points are very tight always," said CU junior Frankie Shebby, who had 16 kills and 18 digs. "In that situation, for how we were playing, we stayed very calm in those last few points, which was very necessary to win that game. I thought we played well at the end of that set."
The Buffs carried that into the fifth set, where they jumped to leads of 4-1 and 10-5 before closing out the set and the match.
"It was a long match for sure," said CU's Alexa Smith, who led the Buffs with 22 kills and also had 11 digs. "I think we did start off slow, but throughout the match we realized what was at stake. We really want to keep getting better at this point in the season and every win is really important."
With the victory, the Buffs have reached the 21-win mark for the first time since 2003, and kept alive their hopes of hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. They close the regular season with a match at California on Wednesday and a home match against Utah on Friday.
"I'm not sure we came out and played with a sense of urgency (against ASU)," Mahoney said. "We need a sense of urgency to win our need (two) matches, because we want to host the first two rounds here - we want to put ourselves in position to do that. If we had lost this match or a match against Cal or a match against Utah, we're not doing that and we're on the road.
"While I think we can play with anyone in the country, I'd rather play anyone in the country here."
Freshman setter Brynna DeLuzio had a season-high 64 assists. ... The Buffs had a season-best five players with double-digit kills. In addition to Smith and Shebby, Hayes had 13 kills, Anna Pfefferle had 12 and Naghede Abu had 10. ... CU is 9-3 in its last 12 matches.
Colorado 3, Arizona State 2Arizona28 16 26 23111Colorado2625242515
Kills — ASU: Okaro 25, Grahovac 12, Hughes 12. Colorado: Smith 22, Shebby 16, Hayes 13.
Blocks — ASU: Unzue 9, Jeremic 5, Grahovac 4, Peterson 4. Colorado: Abu 8, Pfefferle 5, Hayes 4.
Assists — ASU: Peterson 51, Harker 9, Jeremic 1. Colorado: Deluzio 64, Carta-Samuels 5, Shebby 2.
Aces — ASU: Okaro 2, Peterson 1, Harker 1. Colorado: Smith 3, Spann 1, Whipple 1.
Digs — ASU: Peterson 21, Harker 19, Okaro 15. Colorado: Shebby 18, Carta-Samuels 14, Smith 11, DeLuzio 11.