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Sixth (and final) opening practice in the books for CU Buffs volleyball’s Brynna DeLuzio

Sixth-year senior looks to lead Buffs back to NCAA contention

University of Colorado Boulder Volleyball player Brynna DeLuzio speaks to reporters during media day at the Dal Ward Athletic Center on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
University of Colorado Boulder Volleyball player Brynna DeLuzio speaks to reporters during media day at the Dal Ward Athletic Center on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

Brynna DeLuzio admits there was a stretch when the lure of the beach almost called her home.

Although DeLuzio has the blood of Colorado athletics in her veins, she also grew up in Florida. Indoor volleyball always was the sport most likely to offer a collegiate home, but beach volleyball was more than just a hobby for DeLuzio.

When the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility for athletes across every sport who competed during the 2020-21 pandemic year, DeLuzio wondered if there might eventually be an opportunity to give a shot to her other volleyball passion. The Pac-12 Conference’s California schools, for instance, boast strong NCAA beach volleyball programs, as do programs in her home state like Florida State, Florida Atlantic and Florida International.

However, DeLuzio quickly learned the extra year of eligibility wasn’t available if a student-athlete switched sports, as would be the case in a move from indoor volleyball to beach volleyball. And so Tuesday’s opening day of preseason practice for the Buffs marked DeLuzio’s sixth and final opening day in Boulder.

“I always hear people say you’ll regret not doing it while you can,” DeLuzio said of her decision to return to CU for her extra sixth season of eligibility. “I do want to try beach, so that was kind of an option. If it was going to be indoor, though, it was going to be CU.

“In January I do want to pursue beach at a pro level. I don’t know about indoor or overseas, but I definitely want to kind of shift just to try it out.”

DeLuzio was a Pac-12 All-Freshman team selection in 2017 as a setter, helping to lead the Buffs to the Sweet 16. DeLuzio and the Buffs returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2018, but success hasn’t occurred as easily in the years since. She missed the 2019 season due to an injury, and she spent the delayed 2020 season (played in early 2021) as the Buffs’ libero while Jenna Ewert took over the setter role.

This season, DeLuzio, whose father, Don, played linebacker at CU in the 1980s, is certain to play a key role for the Buffs somewhere. Whether that is at setter, where she is facing stern preseason competition from Taylor Simpson, or libero remains to be seen.

“I just want to play the position where it’s best for us to win. Whatever helps us win, I’m all for,” DeLuzio said. “I do love setting. I like being able to impact a play and touch the ball. But there’s also parts of libero that are nice, too. We’ll see what happens.”

Since those back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, the Buffs have gone 36-43 in three seasons, with a 19-41 mark in the Pac-12 and an 8-26 record in true road games. With a veteran squad at his disposal, head coach Jesse Mahoney believes this group can get the program back on track.

The interior defense should be solid behind 6-foot-7 Alexia Kuehl and 6-foot-2 Meegan Hart, another sixth-year senior. The return of Sterling Parker, who missed last season due to a shoulder injury, could help give the Buffs a versatile attack alongside experienced hitters like Jill Schneggenburger, Maya Tabron and Jahara Campbell. As it currently stands, Mahoney said all three of CU’s true freshmen are planning to take redshirt seasons (two due to injuries).

“We certainly feel like we’re an NCAA program and should be going to the NCAA Tournament,” Mahoney said. “We feel like we’ve had the right ingredients, we just haven’t, for whatever reason, put it all together. We’re excited about this year. We feel like we have the right players and the right situation. We’ve just got to get it done.”