Rugged road stretch begins at No. 7 Stanford for CU Buffs volleyball

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado junior Gabby Simpson, left, and the rest of the Buffs head out on the road for four straight games starting Friday at No. 7 Stanford.

The next two weeks may go a long way toward determining the postseason fate of the 19th-ranked Colorado Buffaloes volleyball team.

On Friday, the Buffs visit Stanford to take on the seventh-ranked Cardinal, a Pac-12 Conference showdown that marks the first of four consecutive road dates over the next two weeks for the Buffs.

While certainly the big picture gets shaken routinely week-to-week in the ultra-competitive Pac-12 — the league boasts seven teams among the top 27 vote-getters in this week’s national top-25 poll and nine in the top 38 of the RPI — the Buffs have yet to win a true road game during the team’s 10-4 start. Doing so, especially at Stanford or next week at No. 8 Washington, would provide a huge RPI boost as the league schedule begins to approach the halfway mark.

“We just want to play well, and I think the results will take care of themselves,” CU head coach Jesse Mahoney said. “We’ve been lucky to play teams like Illinois, Penn State, and Colorado State at home and get those wins. I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t think there was an advantage toward playing (at home).

“We haven’t won a true road game yet. Fourteen games in that’s something we need to do. Every time we lose at home, that’s a match we need to find a way to win on the road. That’s how I look at it as a bare minimum.”

The Buffs enter the week ranked 19th and, more importantly, hold down the No. 34 spot this week in the season’s first RPI rankings. But CU’s only wins away from the Coors Events Center have occurred in neutral-floor contests, and the Buffs’ recent 2-2 showing in the first four Pac-12 matches at home included a loss to a Utah team that was unranked at the time.

“I think we could be in a little better position,” junior Gabby Simpson said. “I don’t think (Utah) was a bad loss, but it’s one that we should’ve won. I really don’t think 2-2 is horrible, but especially with this weekend coming up we have to go in prepared for a battle. We need to get these road wins. It’s tough to play in Boulder, it’s hard to play in other places.”

Simpson will look to continue her recent hot streak against Stanford, which won a pair of matches against Illinois and Penn State in Boulder a month ago as part of the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.

Simpson has put together a CU-record streak of four consecutive triple-doubles, a run that includes the program’s first 20-kill, 20-asssit in a win against Arizona on Sept. 25.

“She is a special player and there aren’t a lot of kids like her in the country,” Mahoney said. “When she’s playing average, she’s very good. And when she’s playing really well, she’s special. She’s the best player on the floor night in, night out for us.

“I’ve been most impressed with what she’s doing setting-wise. We already knew she could attack at a high level, and I think she’s dialed-in defensively and she’s becoming a better server. She’s identifying things that aren’t her strengths and she’s trying to get better at them.”

The Buffs complete the road trip Sunday at Cal.

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