Amid all the flower bouquets, beaming smiles and even a few tears that mark any typical Senior Day scene, there was an even bigger reward in play for the Colorado volleyball team in its regular season finale.
The Buffaloes made it a truly festive experience for seven outgoing seniors by taking care of business.
CU topped Utah 3-1 on Friday afternoon at the CU Events Center, all but securing an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 2018. The Buffs completed the regular season with an overall mark of 20-10 — the 12th 20-win regular season in program history — with a 12-8 mark in the Pac-12 Conference.
Of course, nothing is absolutely certain until the NCAA Tournament field is announced on Sunday evening (5:30 p.m., ESPNU), but CU’s run of four wins in its final five contests to close the regular season has likely pushed it into the 64-team field.
“A really good, competitive match,” CU head coach Jesse Mahoney said of Friday’s victory. “(Utah) got hurt and struggled down the stretch of the season a little bit, but obviously super-talented. We started off a little slow in set one, but really proud of how we responded in sets two, three and four. One of the things I love about this team, a total team effort. If you look at the stat line, everyone participated in the win.
“Just really proud of them. Proud of their season. They got better as the season went on. We’ll see when the selection show comes, but I think we’ve done everything we need to do to move into the tournament.”
CU was a step slow defensively throughout the opening set, which the Utes won 25-19, but it was all Buffs the rest of the way. Colorado pulled even with a 25-21 decision in the second set and took control after outlasting the Utes for a 25-23 win in the third set. CU won the fourth set, 25-17.
CU began the week at No. 46 in the RPI rankings but won a pair of must-win contests in the final week of the regular season, first at Arizona on Wednesday before clinching a season sweep of the Utes on Friday.
A number of seniors playing their final contest at the Events Center came through. Brynna DeLuzio recorded 21 assists and eight digs. Fellow sixth-year player Meegan Hart tallied four blocks and seven kills. After posting a season-high 15 digs at Arizona two days earlier, Jill Schneggenburger posted 13 digs to go with nine kills. Katie Lougeay collected a team-high 16 digs. Savannah Perry contributed seven digs and a pair of aces. And Kelley Levaggi, pressed into duty this week with Sterling Parker sidelined with an ankle injury, recorded a career-high seven kills.
“We want to win on Senior Night just regardless, but building up my four years here, going to the tournament has been our goal,” Hart said. “This year, we really wanted to rewrite history and not let the past years define us. It’s so exciting and rewarding finally getting that opportunity with all the hard work we put in the offseason and in the spring and in the summer. It means a lot and it’s a great way to end the conference season.”
Colorado 3, Utah 1
UU 25 21 23 17
CU 19 25 25 25
Kills — Utah: Robinson 24, Jardine 15. Colorado: Tabron 14, Hadrych 11.
Assists — Utah: Hammond 48. Colorado: Simpson 27, DeLuzio 21.
Aces — Utah: Robinson 3. Colorado: Lougeay 2, Perry 2.
Blocks — Utah: Hammond 5, Olsen 4. Colorado: Hart 4, Tabron 3, Kuehl 3, Schneggenburger 3.
Digs — Utah: Ramirez 18, Hammond 18. Colorado: Lougeay 16, Schneggenburger 13, Tabron 12.