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Volleyball: Colorado Buffs earn surprising sweep of No. 21 Washington

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SEATTLE – Colorado volleyball coach Jesse Mahoney didn’t know exactly how bad his program’s record was in the Emerald City, but he knew it wasn’t very good.

“I would say traditionally this has been the toughest road trip for us in my time here,” Mahoney said.

On Friday night, Mahoney and the Buffaloes exorcised some demons in Seattle and boosted their NCAA Tournament hopes with a surprising 3-0 sweep (25-21, 26-24, 25-20) of 21st-ranked Washington at Alaska Airlines Arena.

“I’m so excited,” said Lexi Hadrych, who had a team-high 13 kills. “This team is amazing. We had it the whole entire time. Everybody was so confident and we just kept the energy up the whole entire time, so I’m just so excited.”

Prior to Friday, CU (18-9, 10-7 Pac-12) had never won on the Huskies’ floor, going 0-10. In fact, the Buffs had taken only two sets from the Huskies (18-9, 10-7) on this floor, losing those 10 matches by a combined 30-2.

Overall, the Buffs came in with a six-match losing streak to Washington and a 10-match losing streak in the state, counting their visits to Pullman to face Washington State.

Most important to CU, however, is what the win could do for its NCAA Tournament chances. CU came into the weekend on the tournament bubble, at No. 48 in the RPI rankings. Washington came in at No. 34, while No. 25 Washington State – Sunday’s opponent – is at No. 38.

“It was obviously a great match,” Mahoney said. “That’s a very good team and on their home floor, I was really impressed with not only the level of play, but how consistent we were throughout.”

Led by Meegan Hart, CU jumped to a 5-1 lead in the first set and never trailed. Hart finished the night with eight kills, six of them in the first set.

The second set was back-and-forth until Washington went on a 5-1 run to take an 18-14 lead. A kill by Hadrych ended the run and sparked a 4-1 spurt by the Buffs. Another Hadrych kill and aces by Maya Tabron and Hart capped a 5-1 surge to close the set.

“We found a way to claw our way back into set two and win that and got up big in set three,” Mahoney said. “It takes some fortitude to close it out when they made a run and we did that.”

Three kills by Tabron (who finished with 11) helped CU jump to a 7-2 lead in the third set. They kept a big lead through most of the set. Washington got within 23-19, but Tabron closed it out with her final kill of the night.

“It’s always hard after the first set when you win because you know the other team’s going to come back stronger,” Hadrych said. “They know what you hit like (after one set). I think once we just got into that third set, we knew our rhythm and we just kept going with it.”

CU, which is 5-2 in its last seven matches, finished with its second-best attack percentage (.347) of the season. The only better percentage this year was .370 against Illinois on Sept. 3.

Now, the Buffs hope to take the momentum into Pullman on Sunday. They’ve lost six in a row in the Cougars’ gym.

“We don’t want to split,” Mahoney said. “We want to win every match that we play. … Getting the monkey off our back tonight, I think is helpful. We feel like we can beat any team that we play, whether we’re at home or on the road. I think this win, at Utah, at UCLA, we’ve had some really good road wins this season. We’re gonna take it to Pullman and play our hardest.”

Notable

CU played without senior Sterling Parker, who has an ankle injury. In her place, Kelley Levaggi stepped up with a pair of kills. … CU offset 13 service errors with nine aces. “We served really tough and that was a focus for us,” Mahoney said. … Mahoney praised the play of CU’s setters, as Taylor Simpson finished with 24 assists and Brynna DeLuzio had 11. … CU moved into a fifth-place tie, with Washington, in the Pac-12 standings.

Colorado 3, No. 21 Washington 0

Colorado         25        26        25

Washington     21        24        20

Individual leaders

Kills – CU (Hadrych 13, Tabron 11, Hart 8), Washington (Hoffman 16, Bush 8, Grote 8).

Assists – CU (Simpson 24, DeLuzio 11), Washington (Powell 30, Bays 4).

Aces – CU (Lougeay 3, Tabron 2), Washington (Hoffman 2).

Blocks – CU (Hadrych 2, Hart 2), Washington (Grote 3, Summers 3).

Digs – CU (Schneggenburger 14, Lougeay 9, DeLuzio 6), Washington (Bays 14, Crenshaw 11, Powell 7).

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