The most intriguing aspect of spring workouts for Colorado volleyball coach Jesse Mahoney isn’t the position battles unfolding, or watching a few sixth-year seniors interact with younger players trying to make the next step.
For the Buffaloes, it’s encouraging simply to have a spring schedule at all.
After two straight springs were scuttled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mahoney’s club is roughly halfway through its allotment of spring workouts with an eye on putting to rest the disappointing second half of the 2021 season.
“The kids that are here that will be true seniors next year essentially haven’t had a spring of training,” said Mahoney, whose team played its delayed 2020 season during the winter and spring a year ago. “Just from a training standpoint, the spring has been really good for everybody. I think everyone has been pretty excited and energized to have an opportunity to work on themselves and work on development. Everyone is getting a lot of reps as opposed to having to prepare to compete.
“It’s also the first time in a while we’ve been able to focus on the strength and conditioning portion of things. Not that we weren’t doing them, but in-season — and we’ve been in-season for so long — there’s only so much you can do.”
The Buffs sprinted to a 9-0 start last fall but CU went just 6-14 the rest of the way, losing six of the season’s final seven matches. CU suffered significant personnel issues along the way, starting with the shoulder injury that kept standout outside hitter/middle blocker Sterling Parker sidelined the entire season. CU’s slide also coincided with the dismissal from the team of senior outside hitter Leah Clayton.
CU’s attack was inconsistent the rest of the way, but the Buffs could be poised to bounce back quickly. Although setter Jenna Ewert opted to take her extra COVID season as a transfer at Texas, the Buffs are welcoming back two other extra-year seniors in middle blocker Meegan Hart and Brynna DeLuzio.
A full-time setter earlier in her CU career, DeLuzio is expected to return to that role from the libero position she held down the past few seasons. Hart and Alexia Kuehl should form a formidable tandem in the middle of the Buffs’ defense, and the young players tasked with replacing Clayton’s production on the fly last season — such as Maya Tabron and Jahara Campbell—are benefitting from a full spring of conditioning and skill development.
With DeLuzio moving back to setter, where she will compete with Taylor Simpson, the reserve trio of Savannah Perry, Katie Lougeay, and Emma Torstenson have been competing at libero.
Mahoney said Parker has been participating in spring drills in a restricted basis but is not expected to be fully cleared until May.
“Brynna could do (libero) if we really need her to, but right now that’s not really the plan,” Mahoney said. “Katie Lougeay, who didn’t really do a lot for us last year, has been really good this spring. That’s been really good to see. Savannah Perry has had a really, really good spring. I feel we have a lot of really good pieces at the libero position and we’ll be OK however that goes.”
The Buffs’ spring exhibition schedule continues on Saturday at Colorado State with matches against the Rams as well as the University of Denver. The spring schedule concludes with a home match on April 16 against Wyoming.