It was supposed to be a favorable tune-up for a rivalry battle against a nationally-ranked opponent on Saturday night.
Instead the Colorado Buffaloes volleyball team endured all it could handle from Xavier Friday night at the Coors Events Center, eventually overcoming a series of early defensive miscues to post a 3-1 victory in the final nonconference home match of the season.
The Buffs, according to head coach Jesse Mahoney, “certainly have to play better than we did tonight” in order to knock off the No. 22-ranked Colorado State Rams at Moby Arena Saturday night.
CU (8-1) and Xavier split the first two sets, but the Buffs avoided falling into a 2-1 hole by scoring the final three points of Set 3 to prevail 25-23. CU also trailed 17-16 late in Set 4 before outscoring the Musketeers 9-1 the rest of the way.
“(Xavier) plays a certain style of volleyball that’s designed to create a little chaos defensively and I’m not sure I prepared our team well enough for it,” Mahoney said. “We maybe should’ve had two practices on it and we really only had one. It definitely took us a little while to catch up to the speed of what they do and the misdirection of what they do. I thought we had a handle on it in Set 2…but I was mistaken.”
The Buffs were in solid shape toward possibly recording a sweep ahead of Saturday’s two-match slate after taking a 17-12 lead in Set 2. Xavier put the hosts on their heels, however, by outscoring the Buffs 13-4 the rest of the way, including a 10-1 run to close the set.
After regaining the advantage with the late rally in Set 3 the Buffs still had to battle in the fourth set before pulling away late.
“I think we, for the most part, were lacking communication in general,” CU senior Joslyn Hayes said. “Xavier is a really competitive and fast-paced team. They’re offense is designed to create chaos and we didn’t handle it appropriately.”
With freshman setter Brynna DeLuzio handing out 55 assists, the Buffs featured a balanced offense led by a career-high 19 kills from junior Frankie Shebby. Alexa Smith recorded 16 kills along with 15 digs while Hayes contributed 11 kills. The Buffs posted a season-high total of attack errors for the second consecutive match with 23, though last week’s 22 attack errors at Illinois occurred in a five-set victory.
Shebby’s previous career high was 16 kills, a mark she reached as a freshman at Oregon in 2014.
Naghede Abu paced the Buffs’ defense with four blocks while also adding seven kills.
“I think (DeLuzio) stepped it up big time,” Shebby said. “She spreads the ball out really well. And it’s not just like what we call going-around-the-world where it’s outside, middle, back. She spreads it out so they don’t know who’s going to get set. That leaves pins open and leaves the middle open sometimes.”
The Buffs face Albany at CSU at 11 a.m. Saturday morning before taking on the host Rams at 7 p.m.
Colorado 3, Xavier 1
At Coors Events Center
Xavier (4-7)23252318Colorado (8-1)25212525
Kills — Xavier: Massa 20, Grossman 12; CU: Shebby 19, Smith 16, Hayes 11.
Blocks — Xavier: Newsome 7, Grossman 4; CU: Abu 4, Pfefferle 3.
Assists — Xavier: Humm 23, Dieudonne 20; CU: DeLuzio 55.
Aces — Xavier: Foti 2; CU: DeLuzio 2.
Digs — Xavier: Klare 20, Foti 14, Dieudonne 12; CU: Carta-Samuels 16, Smith 15, DeLuzio 15, Shebby 10.