Despite numerous season-best performances and a dominate defense, the University of Colorado women’s volleyball team found itself just short in a close four-set (24-26, 22-25, 25-23, 22-25) match with No.19-ranked Washington State Friday evening in Boulder.
“I thought it was a really well played match, especially on the defensive end,” CU coach Jesse Mahoney said. “Both teams had about 90 digs. There were a lot of long rallies and really nice plays. Four really tight sets and really competitive sets. In all of them, teams were tied up at 20 or 21. For us, we just couldn’t get kills at the end of sets. Credit Washington State, I thought they defended really well.”
The Buffs fall to 12-10 on the season with a 4-7 record in conference play with the loss. Washington State survives the week of play and improves to 17-5 with an 8-4 record in the Pac-12 after defeating Utah on Wednesday.
Colorado recorded three double-doubles in the loss and posted the second 20-kill performance of the season. Alexa Smith led the charge with 20 kills and 16 digs, finishing with her fourth 20-point match of the season. She was joined in the kills-dig double-double by Justine Spann with 11 kills and 19 digs.
Also for the Buffs on the offensive side, Naghede Abu was a force in the middle with 11 kills and a .391 hitting percentage to lead the team.
“Naghede is having a great senior year,” Mahoney said. “She is a leader offensively and defensively. Whenever she gets set, everyone knows where the ball is going, but she is still finding ways to score and score at a high rate. She hit about .400 tonight. She is fantastic.”
Abu was the beneficiary of solid setter play from Brynna DeLuzio and Jenna Ewert, who combined for 46 assists. DeLuzio led the team with 24 assists, while Ewert picked up her second double-double in a row with 22 assists and 12 digs.
Defensively, the Buffs were a blocking machine with 13.5 total team blocks. Danielle Price finished with six block assists to lead the team, while Abu and Emily DeMure tallied five blocks apiece. That wasn’t it though as Spann and Lauren Dorrell put down four blocks each. The large dig numbers directly benefitted from the blocking up front, highlighted by a career-high 26 digs from libero Rachel Whipple.
The Buffs played hard, holding small leads late in every set of the match. Serve receive play haunted the first set with five Cougar aces, but that was stopped for the rest of the match as WSU only added a single more ace. Washington State relied heavily on outsides McKenna Woodford and Penny Tusa, who delivered with 22 and 19 kills, respectfully.
The match featured 43 ties and 20 lead changes. Each set saw exactly five lead changes, while the third set had 13 tied scores.