In the end, the NCAA volleyball tournament selection committee opted to invite seven Pac-12 teams into the 64-team field.
One of those teams was not the fifth-place University of Colorado Buffaloes.
It was a turn of events Sunday night that left the Buffs in stunned disbelief as the end of their season came not with an emotional-but-satisfying loss in volleyball’s Big Dance, but with the sting of a snub despite a list of credentials more than worthy of postseason consideration.
“It was a huge question mark leading right up to the selection,” CU coach Liz Kritza said. “I knew the RPI was an issue, but you look at the selection committee to put the best possible tournament. Some team every year is unhappy. Well, we are that team this year. We have all the reason that we should to be unhappy with what they did, because it isn’t the best tournament they can field.”
CU’s fifth-place finish in the league included a 19-13 overall mark and an 11-9 record in league play.
Among the Pac-12 entrants chosen ahead of the Buffs were Arizona, which went 9-11 in the league and was swept by CU, and Arizona State, which went 8-12 in conference play while finishing eighth. Although the Buffs went just 1-6 against the top four teams in the Pac-12 (USC, Washington, Stanford, UCLA) they went 4-2 against Arizona, Arizona State, and Oregon, which also squeaked into the tournament field.
Ultimately what doomed CU was its No. 66 mark in the RPI rankings. Arizona State (No. 33), Arizona (41), and Oregon (53) all boasted superior marks, though the Buffs also posted early-season wins against Florida State (22 RPI) and Oklahoma (59).
Instead, the Buffs are left to mull their missed opportunities. CU almost knocked off then-No. 1 USC (the tournament’s top seed) on Oct. 9 before losing in five sets. The Buffs arguably should have closed out a season sweep of Oregon at home on Halloween, and underwhelming road losses against Rice and Utah certainly didn’t help CU’s cause.
“Dropping that match against Oregon at home — that was a really tough one because they went into the tournament ahead of us,” said Kritza, whose team posted six wins against ranked teams this fall. “That loss to Oregon really ended up being something that hurt us.”