Nonconference schedules for CU Buffs soccer, volleyball to lean heavily on regional rivalries

CU volleyball to take on DU Pioneers for first time in 11 years

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado head volleyball coach Jesse Mahoney managed to get the University of Denver on this year’s upcoming schedule. The former Pioneers coach said regional scheduling in nonconference play is all but guaranteed because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s lingering effects on sports.

A year ago, Colorado soccer coach Danny Sanchez intentionally put together a demanding nonconference schedule for his club. Matchups like a road date at national power Florida State were a big reason why the Buffs survived a 3-6-2 showing in the Pac-12 Conference to post an RPI ranking good enough to earn an NCAA Tournament berth.

This summer, Sanchez is quite content securing whatever games he can.

Normally, the schedules for the CU soccer and volleyball programs would have been announced by now. Yet with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to cast uncertainty on the fall sports picture, while also straining the travel budgets of athletic departments across the nation, getting the 2020 slate lined up has been a different sort of challenge this year for Sanchez and volleyball coach Jesse Mahoney.

“Basically every single school in the country is scrambling, whether it’s a Power 5 or a mid-major,” Sanchez said. “I think most of the nonconference is going to be regionalized. A lot of people have lost games, but that’s really everybody in the country. We’ve regionalized our schedule and we’re looking for one more game. Which might be tough to fill, because everybody is looking for games.

“The whole strength of schedule, that’s kind of gone out the window this year. We’ve got enough strength of schedule in our conference. We just want to get games.”

Sanchez said his team lost three previous commitments for home games for a variety of reasons, from the altered travel policies of opposing schools to budgetary constraints. Mahoney said his club was handed an early void on its schedule just last week, as a tournament at UNLV was shelved when too many programs (but not CU) bowed out of the field.

Like the soccer team, Mahoney has loaded up on regional rivalries for the nonconference slate, including home-and-home sets against Colorado State and the University of Denver. Mahoney coached at DU for four seasons before moving to CU, and it will be the Buffs’ first matchups against the Pioneers since 2009.

CU volleyball also is scheduled to host Illinois and Iowa as part of the annual Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge. With the sets against CSU and DU lined up immediately afterward, the Buffs won’t have to board an airplane or leave the state for at least three consecutive weeks — and perhaps longer if that early void from the canceled UNLV tournament turns into home games.

“Usually we would be done in the Pac-12 and they’d have the schedule out June 15 with all the TV and dates and everything, but the Pac-12 hasn’t done that yet,” Mahoney said. “We have the general this-is-who-we’re-playing this week, but we don’t know always in which order, or if they’ll be Friday-Sunday or if they’ll move one to Wednesday for TV reasons. It’s a little bit of a limbo.”

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
The Colorado soccer team will play Wyoming on Sept. 6 as part of a heavy slate of local nonconference games.

While the CU soccer and volleyball programs hope to announce their tentative 2020 schedules within the next few weeks, a couple dates nonetheless have been released. Colorado State announced its nonconference volleyball schedule on Friday, with the home-and-home series against the Buffs set for Sept. 18 in Fort Collins and Sept. 19 in Boulder. On Monday, CSU released its women’s soccer schedule as well, with a season-opening Aug. 20 date at CU. The CU soccer team also is scheduled to host Wyoming on Sept. 6.

“Denver and Colorado State are going to be the best RPI matches for us in the (nonconference),” Mahoney said. “If we could play them every year, we will. That’s why we went to playing Colorado State twice (last year), and getting to play Denver twice was kind of the same thing. From an RPI standpoint, it works out really well.”