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If the Colorado Buffaloes volleyball team continues to display the sort of grit it showcased Friday night in the first game of the Jesse Mahoney era, then CU’s new head coach undoubtedly will have a long and prosperous tenure.

Despite a potentially back-breaking loss in Set 3, the Buffs managed to surge past Texas Tech in the season opener Friday night, posting a five-set win at the Portland State Invitational.

The teams traded wins through the first two sets and the Buffs were poised to take control while holding a 23-20 lead late in Set 3. Texas Tech momentarily stunned the Buffs by rallying for a 26-24 win, but CU retained its composure to win the following sets 25-18 and 15-8 to give Mahoney the victory in his debut.

The Buffs played shorthanded without junior Gabby Simpson, an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection last year at outside hitter who is expected to be CU’s primary setter this year. With Simpson sidelined by injury, Kiara McKibben filled the setter role admirably in her CU debut.

A high school teammate of Gabby Simpson and Cierra Simpson at Doherty in Colorado Springs, McKibben transferred to her home state from the University of San Francisco and enjoyed a memorable showing in her first match as a Buff, finishing with 41 assists and seven digs.

Another homegrown transfer, Monument native and former Purdue athlete Alexa Smith, paced CU’s attack with 23 kills while also adding eight digs and two aces. Stephanie Shadley posted 15 kills while Katelyn Cuff and Joslyn Hayes added 10 kills and eight blocks apiece. Cierra Simpson recorded a team-best 14 digs.

The Buffs continue play in the Portland State Invitational on Saturday, taking on host Portland State at 10:30 a.m. MDT before facing Long Beach State at 7 p.m. MDT.

Pat Rooney: or

Colorado 3, Texas Tech 2

At Portland State Invitational

Colorado (1-0)


Texas Tech (0-1)


Kills —
Colorado: Smith 23, Shadley 15, Cuff 10, Hayes 10; Texas Tech: Ybanez 13, Douglass 12, Redding 12, Keenan 12.

Blocks —
Colorado: Cuff 8, Hayes 8; Texas Tech: Douglass 6, Redding 5.

Assists —
Colorado: McKibben 41, Zimmerman 12; Texas Tech: Grubb 52.

Aces —
Colorado: Smith 2, Shadley 2, McKibben 2; Texas Tech: Akiu 2.

Digs —
Colorado: C. Simpson 14, Smith 8, McKibben 7; Texas Tech: Akiu 24.