The bulk of the Colorado volleyball roster hasn’t performed on a stage quite like the NCAA Tournament before.
If nerves were a problem, however, it certainly didn’t show on Friday, as the Buffaloes returned to volleyball’s version of the Big Dance for the first time since 2014 in impressive fashion, sweeping James Madison 25-21, 25-14, 25-12 in a first-round match to advance to Saturday’s second round. The Buffs will play the host Baylor Bears on Saturday night at 7 p.m. MST. Baylor is the No. 12 overall seed in the 64-team tournament.
“I thought we did a really good job of settling into the match about halfway through the first set, really doing a good job of calming down, eliminating errors, and getting into a rhythm from the serving,” CU head coach Jesse Mahoney said. “Sets two and three we were really low-error offensively and on top of things defensively. I was really happy with our poise and hopefully we can carry that over into tomorrow.”
After taking the first set 25-21 the Buffs were able to take care of business relatively swiftly, allowing Mahoney an opportunity to sprinkle some of his reserves into the rotation in preparation for Saturday.
Making their 19th NCAA Tournament appearance, the Buffs will be seeking their fourth Sweet 16 berth and their first since 1997. Friday’s victory improved the Buffs to 9-8 all-time in the first round (CU twice had first-round byes in past tourney formats).
“Playing three sets instead of four is better, there’s no doubt,” Mahoney said. “What I really like is that we didn’t have to take too many swings tonight. Everybody got into a good rhythm on the attack. By tomorrow I think we’ll be pretty comfortable on this floor and in this environment. We’re definitely excited with the result.”
Junior Frankie Shebby paced a balanced CU attack with 12 kills, but she had plenty of help from Naghede Abu (nine kills), Alexa Smith (eight), and Anna Pfefferle (seven). Freshman setter Brynna DeLuzio handed out 33 assists and also posted a team-leading 13 digs.
“It’s boring, but it’s just about the routine. We’ll do what we always do,” Mahoney said. “(Saturday) we’ll watch film and we’ll have a walk-through. Every match you play is the most important match of the year, and that’s how we’ll face it.”
CU improved to 23-9, the most wins for the program since 1994 while counting as a tie for third-most all-time.
Colorado 3, James Madison 0
At Baylor University
James Madison (23-6) 21 14 12
Colorado (23-9) 25 25 25
Kills — JM: Crawley 6; CU: Shebby 12, Abu 9, Smith 8.
Blocks — JM: Martin 2; CU: Abu 4, Pfefferle 4.
Assists — JM: Martin 14; CU: DeLuzio 33.
Aces — JM: Yaglioglu 2; CU: Shebby 1, Pfefferle 1, DeLuzio 1.
Digs — JM: Austin 12, Driscoll 10; CU: DeLuzio 13, Carta-Samuels 9, Shebby 8.