After experiencing the first small taste of adversity following a record-setting start to the 2021 season, the Colorado volleyball team bounced back in a big way.
Two days after the Buffaloes’ program-best 9-0 start came to a halt with a three-set loss at Washington State, the 24th-ranked Buffs returned home on Friday to face their first ranked foe of the season in No. 15 Utah. CU served notice it plans to compete with the best of the best in the Pac-12 Conference by getting back in the win column with a three-set sweep of the Utes (25-15, 25-17, 25-23).
“I’m really proud of this group for regrouping and responding after our match against Washington State,” CU head coach Jesse Mahoney said. “Washington State is really the first time we did not respond during the match. But we came back home and did a really nice job of prepping (Thursday), and really we played probably our best or most complete match today. I’m proud of them for getting that done.”
CU took advantage of an uncharacteristically sloppy night by the Utes, and the Buffs’ defense helped frustrate Utah’s standout outside hitter Dani Drews into a completely atypical performance.
Utah, which was 48 hours removed from a hotly-contested five-set road win at No. 6 Washington, committed 10 attack errors and three service errors in the opening set. The Utes added seven more attack errors in the second set and finished with 20 attack errors and nine service errors overall.
Drews, a two-time AVCA first team All-American and the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year, committed nine attack errors alongside only eight kills. Drews entered the match averaging 4.84 kills per set, and her limited chances on Friday night often were diffused by CU defenders like Brynna DeLuzio (18 digs) and Jill Schneggenburger (12 digs).
“(Drews) has been in the league five years now, so we have a lot of film on her,” Mahoney said. “She does what she does, and she does it really well. You just have to put yourself in position to be successful and go out and execute.”
The Buffs led throughout set one and pulled away late in set two, scoring nine of the final 12 points of the frame after the Utes had trimmed an early eight-point lead for CU down to two. Utah didn’t go away quietly and attempted to extend the match in the third set, taking a late 21-20 lead. But three kills from sophomore Maya Tabron highlighted a 5-2 set-closing run by the Buffs that sealed the win.
“I think both of these matchups were going to be very competitive and very important for us just to see where we are as a team,” said senior Leah Clayton, who paced CU’s attack with 15 kills. “I think we came out and showed everybody who we are and they should be watching out for us, definitely.”
CU remains at home next week with matches at the CU Events Center against No. 13 Oregon (Friday, Oct. 1) and Oregon State (Sunday, Oct. 3).
No. 24 Colorado 3, No. 15 Utah 0
Utah (8-3, 1-1) 15 17 23
CU (10-1, 1-1) 25 25 25
Kills — Utah: Robinson 12, Weatherington 9, Drews 8. Colorado: Clayton 15, Tabron 10.
Assists — Utah: Jankiewicz 24. Colorado: Ewert 32.
Aces — Utah: Yett 2. Colorado: Tabron 1, DeLuzio 1.
Blocks — Utah: Robinson 2, Olsen 2. Colorado: Ewert 4, Hart 4.
Digs — Utah: Jankiewicz 10, Ramirez 10. Colorado: DeLuzio 18, Schneggenburger 12.