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CU volleyball buying time after abrupt halt to spring workouts

Brynna DeLuzio ready to go after missing 2019 season

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado setter Brynna DeLuzio is hoping for another big game Sunday against the No. 14-ranked USC Trojans.

After missing an entire season and a solid portion of another due to injuries, Brynna DeLuzio is ready to go for the Colorado volleyball team. When she will actually get to showcase her return to form remains up in the air.

Like the rest of the sporting world, spring workouts for coach Jesse Mahoney’s program were put on hold more than a month ago. The Buffaloes had begun spring drills and were on the cusp of taking on Mahoney’s former team at the University of Denver in the first spring exhibition on March 15 when the entirety of NCAA athletics was canceled out of fears of the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19.

The hiatus interrupted, but certainly didn’t squash, DeLuzio’s comeback. She earned Pac-12 Conference All-Freshman honors in 2017 as a setter while helping CU to reach the NCAA Sweet 16 but was sidelined last season due to a knee injury. During DeLuzio’s injury-shortened 2018 season, Jenna Ewert emerged as a standout setter as well, and Mahoney was hoping to use the spring sessions to evaluate DeLuzio at libero, where she is a candidate to replace graduating senior Rachel Whipple.

That plan, like everything else right now, is on hold.

“If you came to practice and watched a practice, you wouldn’t have any idea that Brynna was injured and redshirted, or that she had any issues whatsoever,” Mahoney said. “She trained at setter and at libero throughout the spring. In fact, that’s probably the one player I wish we had more time with, because she’s got an opportunity to play both of those and we really wanted to evaluate her at both.”

Whipple and outside hitter Justine Spann are the only rotation players Mahoney was tasked with replacing this spring. However, the spring sessions might have provided an extra developmental phase for two standout freshmen last fall, Sterling Parker and Elissa Alcantara, in addition to a cast of youngsters eyeing bigger roles in 2020. That includes outside hitter Leah Clayton, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.

“Not complaining, because we did get a lot of time in the gym and we did see some good results and some good growth,” Mahoney said. “But definitely a lot of promise and a lot of youth on this team that could have used a little more time this spring. I know our players are frustrated they aren’t getting the time that they want in the gym for sure.”

Like his coaching brethren, Mahoney and his staff have been forced to recruit from home during the campus shutdown. However, given the commitments already in place for the 2021 recruiting class, Mahoney says the only setbacks so far on the recruiting trail has been his staff’s inability to evaluate 2022 recruits ahead of June 15, when they are allowed to start contacting those recruits.

“Our 2020 class and 2021 class are essentially recruited,” Mahoney said. “It certainly could have been worse if we were in a place where we felt like we were scrambling to fill roster spots. We didn’t feel like that. 2022 is kind of the next group we are going to be allowed to communicate with on June 15th, and we really lost the ability to evaluate that class throughout the spring. Which is unfortunate, but it’s the circumstances that we’re in.

“It’s not ideal for anyone, but we don’t feel like we’re behind the eight-ball. We feel comfortable where our roster is at.”