CU volleyball: Nicole Edelman leaves her mark as backbone of Buffs program

Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Colorado senior Nicole Edelman will player her final match at the Coors Events Center when the Buffs host Utah on Friday.

Nicole Edelman isn’t always the easiest person to live with, but everybody loves having her around.

“Sometimes you love her and sometimes you hate her, but she has this ability to draw something out of you,” Colorado volleyball coach Liz Kritza said of her senior setter.

“As a captain, as a setter, as a leader on this team, she’s done an amazing job of making sure that she’s always having an impact.”

As Edelman’s collegiate career is nearing its end, the impact she’s had on the CU volleyball program is undeniable.

Edelman and fellow senior Alexis Austin will play their final match at the Coors Events Center on Friday when the Buffs (18-13, 10-9 Pac-12) host Utah (10-20, 4-15), and it’s fitting that CU has a potential NCAA tournament berth on the line.

“She’s like the push for all of us to play as great as we can,” sophomore Gabby Simpson said of Edelman. “I’d say she’s the backbone of our team.”

A graduate of Boulder’s Fairview High School, Edelman – along with Austin – has been the key to CU’s resurgence in volleyball.

The Buffs had a 19-66 record in the three years before Edelman arrived, but she was determined to help her hometown team win again.

“When I started, I knew it was going to be hard and challenging because Alexis and I did come here to build a program,” Edelman said, “but it’s been the most rewarding experience.”

Edelman said the relationships she has formed with teammates and coaches mean the world to her. But there’s no question she takes great pride in the fact that since her arrival the Buffs are 70-59 and eyeing a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

“I’m very competitive,” she said. “When I first got here, I really pushed the envelope of competitiveness.”

A big reason Kritza brought Edelman to CU was to push that envelope.

“Above all this kid wants to win, and everybody who plays with her wants to win, because if they don’t, she’ll say something to you,” Kritza said.

Edelman has said plenty to her teammates over the years, and that’s led to some tough moments, but also some bonding moments.

“Since that first year and onwards, I’ve really been able to build personal relationships with everyone on the team,” Edelman said. “With hard work and those relationships, you can push people. At the time they may not like you, but I think they appreciate it afterwards because they get better.”

Edelman has gotten better, too. She is just the fifth player in CU history to record more than 4,000 assists, and she’s dangerous as a hitter, server and defender.

“Honestly, I feel like she’s overlooked a lot, recognition-wise throughout the (Pac-12) and other areas,” Austin said. “She’s been a great asset. She’s been doing so much for this team.”

While many of her statistics are great, Edelman’s career has been marked by her ability to deal with adversity, including a losing season as a freshman and a back injury that hampered her during the first half of her career.

“With all the adversity I’ve had and all the great moments as well, it’s shaped me to who I am today,” she said.

In many ways, Edelman will leave CU a different person. But she will leave with as much CU pride – if not more – than she’s ever had.

“I don’t know how many people get to play in front of their home crowd their whole high school and collegiate career, so I’m just so thankful and grateful I’ve been able to do that,” she said. “It’s just really exciting for me and I’m excited to just finish the season strong.”

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