A little initial resistance from a traditional rival couldn’t derail Colorado’s record-setting start to the 2021 season.
Despite a somewhat slow start, the 25th-ranked CU volleyball team kept rolling on Thursday night, outlasting visiting Colorado State for a four-set victory at the CU Events Center (22-25, 25-18, 25-19, 25-20).
Following a run of 12 losses in 13 matches against CSU from 1999 through 2014, CU has now won four of its past six contests against the Rams. More importantly, the Buffs improved to 8-0 for the first time in program history going into the final nonconference match of the season, which will be a rematch in Fort Collins against the Rams on Saturday afternoon (1 p.m.).
A win at CSU on Saturday and the Buffs will be undefeated going into Pac-12 play for the first time since joining the league 10 years ago. CU’s 2017 win in Fort Collins is the Buffs’ only win at CSU’s Moby Arena since 1995.
“I thought it was a high-level match on both sides,” said CU head coach Jesse Mahoney, a former CSU assistant. “I felt like we spread the offense around a little bit. It’s a testament to how consistent we were passing, and then Jenna (Ewert) making very good decisions.
“A really good match. They’re going to be a tough team in Fort Collins. We’ve got to get healthy, rested, and ready to go for Saturday.”
CSU (4-4) led for the bulk of the first set, building a 22-16 lead before holding off the Buffs for a 25-22 win. The Buffs pressed the advantage from there, winning the next two sets. The Rams didn’t go away quietly and nearly extended the match, taking an 18-17 lead late in the fourth set. But CU outscored CSU 8-2 the rest of the way, netting several critical points from 6-foot-6 middle blocker Alexia Kuehl.
Kuehl led the CU defense with seven blocks and added a career-best 12 kills. It was a balanced effort offensively for the Buffs, who also received 12 kills apiece from Leah Clayton and Maya Tabron, in addition to 11 kills from Meegan Hart.
“I think that goes to us warming up in the first set. We shouldn’t do that, but once we got into rhythm, everything became a little more steady and we knew what to expect,” said Ewert, who finished with 47 assists. “I think that made it easier for me to spread the offense out, and people started trusting themselves to put the ball away. Just kind of run everything down and do our best.”
Thursday’s match was the Buffs’ first as a nationally-ranked team in two years, going back to when CU ascended to No. 18 early in the 2019 season only to be knocked from the poll following consecutive losses against the Rams. CU had not been ranked again until this week, and the first-set setback may have been a sign of the bigger target now on the Buffs’ backs.
“I can’t speak for the rest of the team, but that doesn’t really change anything for me,” Ewert said. “We’ve been in this position before. We had a good preseason and it’s a different story when you get into conference. Your body is a little more worn out and you’re playing multiple ranked teams for the rest of the season. It just puts in my mind to get more in rhythm and get more comfortable before we get into conference.”
CU survived an injury scare in the second set when Jill Schneggenburger fell to the floor with an apparent left ankle injury. The junior outside hitter briefly left the match but soon returned…CU’s victory ended a four-game winning streak for CSU…The Buffs have won three of their past four home matches against the Rams.
No. 25 Colorado 3, Colorado State 1
CU 22 25 25 25
CSU 25 18 19 20
Kills — CSU: Van Liefde 15, Sullivan 10; CU: Clayton 12, Kuehl 12, Tabron 12.
Assists — CSU: Prichard 39; CU: Ewert 47.
Aces — CSU: Hudson 1, Stanford 1, Leber 1, Roumeliotis 1; CU: Ewert 1, Tabron 1.
Blocks — CSU: Leber 3, Colombo 2, Pritchard 2, ; CU: Kuehl 7, Hart 6, Ewert 4.
Digs — CSU: Roumeliotis 22, Pritchard 13; CU: DeLuzio 26, Ewert 19, Clayton 11.