Even on the heels of his club’s surprising 5-0 start and even more surprising sweep of then-No. 5 Illinois last week, Colorado volleyball coach Jesse Mahoney cautioned this week that the youth and inexperience dotting the Buffaloes’ rotation would lead to some adversity sooner or later.
It proved to be sooner.
The Colorado State Rams outlasted the Buffs on Friday night at the CU Events Center, topping the hosts in five sets to sweep the first regular season home-and-home set between the state rivals since 1995. The Rams also swept CU Thursday night in Fort Collins.
The victory was CSU’s first in Boulder since 2008 and made the Rams the first owners of the Golden Spike trophy, a new traveling trophy added to the rivalry this year.
The Buffs broke into the AVCA top 25 poll at No. 19 this week, but Mahoney suddenly is tasked with getting his squad to rebound after suffering its first two losses of the season in quick succession.
“Moral victories suck, right? This was a textbook moral victory, I suppose,” Mahoney said. “I thought we responded well (from Thursday). We had a great serve-and-pass today. Our players were upbeat. I thought tonight we played hard, we played disciplined. We did a lot of things that are going to help us win matches in the long-term. It didn’t happen tonight.
“(CSU) is a really good team. This was a coin-flip match and it just came out the other way.”
After not putting up much of a fight Thursday at CSU, the Buffs hit their home floor with better energy Friday, jumping to a 12-5 lead before winning the opening set 25-11. CSU won the next two frames, leading throughout set two before rallying in a third set in which CU raced to a 7-0 advantage.
The Buffs managed to extend the match to a fifth and deciding set with a 25-20 win in set four. But as was the case the entire night, CU struggled to slow CSU’s momentum whenever the Rams got rolling. It occurred once again at the most critical juncture for the Buffs, as the Rams jumped to a 6-0 lead and never were challenged in a 15-7 set five win.
“It’s a huge rivalry, and it’s very disappointing that we didn’t lose just once, but twice,” said senior libero Rachel Whipple, a Colorado native who had been 3-0 against CSU before this week. “Definitely really more worried about the growth of our team, though. I treat (CSU) as other team, even if it is a rivalry. So we put it behind us and we come back and we’ll practice next week ready to go.”
The attendance of 2,365 was the 20th-largest home crowd in CU volleyball history…CU hosts the Colorado Classic next week, with a home match Friday against Oakland followed by two on Sept. 21 against UMBC (noon) and Campbell (7:30 p.m.)…The rivals also will play a home-and-home set next year in reverse order, with the Buffs hosting the first match and CSU hosting the finale.
Colorado State 3, Colorado 2
Colorado State 11 25 25 20 15
Colorado 25 23 19 25 7
Kills — CSU: Runnels 16, Hillyer 13, ; CU: Schneggenburger 10, Spann 9.
Blocks — CSU: Hougaard-Jensen 7, Hillyer 4, Oleksak 4; CU: Price 5, Parker 5, Hart 4.
Assists — CSU: Oleksak 34; CU: Ewert 32.
Digs — CSU: Oleksak 13, Runnels 12, Roumeliotis 11; CU: Whipple 14, Spann 8, Schneggenburger 8, Ewert 8.
Aces — CSU: Four players with 1; CU: Perry 2.