There obviously remains a long way to go, and coach Jesse Mahoney would probably be the first person to say his Buffaloes still have a world of improvement to make before tackling the rigors of the Pac-12 Conference.
Still, the new-look Buffs are 5-0, and they can credit a team effort with contributions across the board for the hot start.
CU continued its winning ways Saturday night at the Coors Events Center, sweeping Rice 3-0 in the Omni Invitational. The victory moved the Buffs to 5-0 for the first time since a 6-0 start in 2008, a mark CU will attempt to match when it completes the tournament Sunday morning against Abilene Christian (11 a.m.).
“We have a great offensive lineup and our setter, Brynna (DeLuzio), she does a great job of spreading the offense,” senior Joslyn Hayes said. “The more each person contributes, the less one person has to take on the load. I think that moving forward is extremely important.”
Three players — Hayes, Naghede Abu, and Alexa Smith — paced the Buffs’ offense with nine kills apiece.
In addition to DeLuzio, who continued the promising start to her collegiate career with 32 assists, the Buffs received a number of key contributions from players taking on expanded roles this season. Junior libero Gabby Carta-Samuels finished with 15 digs, her second double-digit digs total in three matches. Frankie Shebby, a transfer from Oregon, didn’t have her most efficient night on the attack but still finished with five kills and 10 digs.
With three blocks apiece, Abu and Hayes combined for six of the Buffs’ 11 blocks against a Rice team that never led after the opening moments of the first set.
“We are winning, and I think it’s because how some of the pieces are fitting,” Mahoney said. “(Carta-Samuels), she had 15 digs. That’s five digs per set. She had a really nice match and she’s been playing in a much more calm fashion since she’s gotten the starting nod, which has been good to see. Frankie Shebby has some star potential. She hasn’t quite put the numbers up that we’re expecting, but she’s going to grow and get better.
“We’ve been toying around with a double-sub, 6-2 situation, which allows us to get a bigger block in there as well. Those kids are coming in and executing well. We’ve got a lot of old faces, but they’re in slightly different roles and it’s meshing well so far.”
CU used an 11-2 run to take control in the first set and cruised from there, never trailing in the second set before posting the second sweep of the day and the third of the young season. By the end of Sunday’s match against Abilene Christian the Buffs will have played their first six contests in a span of 10 days. Recovering from the early grind will be pivotal before the competition gets more demanding next week with matches against Penn State and Illinois in the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge.
“Our bench is deep. We’re going to play some kids (Sunday) to give a couple of our players who have been taking a lot of swings a rest,” Mahoney said. “That’s nice to have too. We have kids on the bench that could be doing very similar things as our starters. We need to find some opportunities in matches, because we’re going to need that throughout the season.”
The Buffs began the day with a sweep of Wake Forest Saturday afternoon. Smith led the offense with 14 kills while Shebby added eight kills and a team-leading nine digs.
Colorado 3, Rice 0
At Coors Events Center
Rice (4-3)152020Colorado (5-0)252525
Kills — Rice: Lennon 15, Waggoner 7; CU: Abu 9, Hayes 9, Smith 9.
Blocks — Rice: McDaniel 1, Kyle 1; CU: Abu 3, Hayes 3.
Assists — Rice: McDaniel 31; CU: DeLuzio 32.
Aces — Rice: McDaniel 1; CU: DeLuzio 2, Smith 1, Pfefferle 1.
Digs — Rice: Cunningham 15, McDaniel 10; CU: Carta-Samuels 15, Shebby 10.
Colorado 3, Wake Forest 0
At Coors Events Center
Wake Forest (4-2)231815Colorado (4-0)252525
Kills — Wake Forest: Long 17, Rassenfoss 7; CU: Smith 14, Shebby 8, Abu 7.
Blocks — Wake Forest: Moore 3, Long 3; CU: Pfefferle 4, Hayes 2, Abu 2.
Assists — Wake Forest: Holt 32; CU: DeLuzio 35.
Aces — Wake Forest: Long 1, Rassenfoss 1; CU: None.
Digs — Wake Forest: Wolf 18, Holt 9; CU: Shebby 9, Carta-Samuels 6, Smith 5.