The Colorado volleyball team certainly didn’t make it look easy Friday night. But the Buffaloes were able to turn it on whenever the club was most in need of a spark.
Despite trailing throughout the bulk of the first four sets, the Buffs were able to pick up their first Pac-12 Conference victory against Oregon State, rallying at the end of the first and third sets to slowly pull away at the Coors Events Center and post the win in a five-set thriller. The Buffs avoided their first 0-3 start in league play since 2011, when CU struggled to a 1-21 mark in its first season in the Pac-12.
It also was the Buffs’ sixth consecutive home victory against the Beavers with No. 12 Oregon set to visit Saturday night. The Ducks prevailed in five sets Friday night in a top-20 showdown at Utah.
The Buffs played slightly shorthanded as junior Frankie Shebby, who ranks second on the team in kills, did not play due to an undisclosed injury she aggrevated during warmups. Her availability for the Oregon match will be evaluated Saturday.
“I don’t think we played the cleanest volleyball,” CU coach Jesse Mahoney said. “I do think Oregon State is very good and they did a lot of very good things. They made us uncomfortable. On top of that, we were down a starter and I thought Steph (Shadley) did a very nice job certainly passing and defending. But we got caught in our two-hitter rotations too much, and that’s what I lay awake at night thinking about. I’ll probably do that again tonight.”
Oregon State led for the majority of the opening set and held a 19-17 lead late before the Buffs rallied. CU managed to finish the set riding an 8-2 run to close out a 25-21 win and take a one-set advantage.
The Beavers once again led most of the way in set 2, taking an 18-14 edge before the Buffs once again rallied. A 9-4 run by CU gave the Buffs a 23-22 advantage. The Buffs twice had OSU at set point with leads at 24-23 and 25-24 but were unable to put the Beavers away, with OSU ultimately evening the match with a 27-25 win.
The match continued to follow a similar script in set 3, with OSU leading most of the way while building a 17-13 edge. A 5-1 run got the Buffs back within striking distance, and CU eventually outscored the Beavers 12-5 down the stretch to post a 25-23 win and take a 2-1 set advantage.
The fourth set proved to be the aberration of the match, with the Beavers dominating CU for a 25-7 win to set up the decisive fifth set. Late in that fourth set Mahoney opted to pull a few of his regulars to perhaps get an early jump on preparing for set 5, and the decision appeared to pay off when the Buffs scored four of the first five points of the frame, eventually building a 6-2 lead.
After a timeout, however, the Beavers answered with five consecutive points to take a 7-6 lead. OSU seemingly took control with a 12-10 edge, but the Buffs finally clinched the win by scoring the final five points, the last of which came on an ace from Gabby Carta-Samuels.
“That (fourth) set kind of got away from us, so it was kind of two things,” Mahoney said. “One, I wanted to rest some people. And two, I wanted to set a lot of stuff we don’t nomrally set. So that when we got into the fifth set they would bite on a back row attack to Joss (Joslyn Hayes), or running the middle over and over and over so we can open up the outside.
“Those things aren’t particularly efficient all the time, and maybe not very efficient with some back row players in there. But it gave (Alexa Smith) a chance to relax. It gave (Anna Pfefferle) a chance to relax. If I had more subs I would’ve taken everybody out so we could just have a fresh start. And I think for the most part it worked. We came out in the fifth set with some energy and we were able to sustain it at the end.”
Smith paced CU’s attack with 21 kills while also adding 16 digs. Hayes fell just one kill short of matching her career-best for a second consecutive match, finishing with 15. Freshman setter Brynna DeLuzio posted at least 50 assists for the fifth time in the past seven matches, as she recorded 55.
CU’s defense had trouble the entire night attempting to stop OSU’s Mary-Kate Marshall and freshman Maddie Goings. Marshall finished with a match-high 22 kills while Goings recorded a season-best 20 kills.
Pat Rooney: email@example.com or twitter.com/prooney07
Colorado 3, Oregon State 2
At Coors Events Center
Oregon State (10-5, 0-3) 21 27 23 25 12
Colorado (11-3, 1-2) 25 25 25 7 15
Kills — Oregon State: Marshall 22, Goings 20; CU: Smith 21, Hayes 15.
Blocks — Oregon State: Cheshire 7; CU: Abu 4.
Assists — Oregon State: McLaughlin 57; CU: DeLuzio 55.
Aces — Oregon State: Five players with 1; CU: DeLuzio 4.
Digs — Oregon State: Ellis 21; CU: Carta-Samuels 19, Smith 16, Shadley 15.