BOULDER — The University of Colorado volleyball team shocked the top-ranked Washington Huskies on Friday night by handing them their first loss of the 2013 season, winning 3-1 (25-17, 26-24, 15-25, 25-19) at the Coors Events Center.
“I don’t think it has hit me yet,” senior Kerra Schroeder said. “At the same time, I think that we finally played to our potential, and I don’t think that anyone in the Pac-12 is ready for it. I’m not even shocked that we played so well. It's awesome that we finally did.”
This was the Buffs second win over a ranked opponent in eight days as they defeated No. 11 UCLA in five sets on Sept. 27, also at the Coors Events Center. The last time CU defeated two ranked teams in such a short span was in 2005 when the Buffs beat Kansas State (3-2) on Oct. 12 and Texas A&M (3-2) on Oct. 16. KSU was ranked 20th and TAMU was 24th.
“I told the team in the huddle that I’m not surprised at the results,” coach Liz Kritza said. “We focused on playing well. Even though we have had some really good matches in this season already, this team and this group of coaches is different. We’re just not going to be satisfied until we can maximize everything that we have. Tonight was the best I have seen this team play this season, and I still think that there’s more for us to do. We’re definitely going to enjoy it and celebrate it; wins like this are very significant. Years of work go into something like this is. I couldn’t be more proud of these players and coaches and this complete team effort.”
This was just the second time in program history that CU has knocked off a No. 1 ranked team; the last time was Nov. 11, 2006 when the Buffs took down Nebraska in five sets. Coincidentally that was the Husker’s only loss of the season as NU went onto win the NCAA Championship.
“Everybody wants to beat the number one team on their home court; it has to be a little bit more than that,” Kritza said. “It has to be a true group that actually believes it and is willing to make sacrifices and willing to work. Especially for us, we are coming off of a tough match on Tuesday. It’s up and down, and it’s even more significant coming off of that tough slip.”
CU improved to 10-3 on the season, 2-1 in the Pac-12 with the win; while UW is now 10-1 overall and 1-2 in the Pac-12.
Junior Taylor Simpson recorded a match-high 18 kills in the win and hit .302 with only five errors on 43 attacks. She also led the team with 20 digs for her sixth double-double of the year.
“This was the most exciting game I’ve ever played throughout my entire career so far,” Simpson said. “I can only imagine what’s next. We just beat the number one team, and I’m beyond excited.”
The Buffs recorded 56 kills in the four sets, 10 more than Washington (46) and out-hit the Huskies .282-.135. Nicole Edelman handed out 46 of CU’s 53 assists and added 12 digs, two kills and a pair of blocks.
Sophomore Alexis Austin added 11 kills for the Buffs and Schroeder hammered nine. Kelsey English and Nikki Lindow each added eight kills in the victory.
CU also did well in the back row, picking up almost everything that came its way. The Buffs had 68 digs, compared to UW’s 55. Cierra Simpson added 12 digs for the Buffs and Schroeder had 10 digs on top of Taylor Simpson’s 20 and Edelman’s 12 digs. The Buffs block also looked good with Lindow and Schroeder posted four block assists. They recorded 9.0 team blocks compared to UW’s 6.0 blocks.
“I am so proud of everyone on my team,” Schroeder said. “I feel like we had a lot of long rallies, and no one gave up. That shows a lot of heart.”
The Huskies were led by Krista Vansant’s 14 kills. Lianna Sybeldon was also in double-digits with 12 kills while hitting .440. She also recorded four block assists. Jenna Orlandini had a team-best 15 digs in the match.
The Buffs took a 10-5 lead to start the match, forcing UW to call its first timeout. Out of the break, the Huskies took three of the next four points but the Buffs regrouped and kept rolling, going up 19-13. Once again the Huskies needed a break, but they couldn’t slow down CU and the Buffs closed the set 25-17. CU hit .378 and held the Huskies to .088.
The second set was much closer and the Buffs had the lead through the first part. CU was up 15-14 at the media timeout when the Huskies took two straight points for their first lead of the night (16-15). The score would be tied nine more times in the set and it would also go extra points. CU had set point (24-23), but UW tied it back up with a kill. The Buffs decided it was time to end the set after that with a pair of kills from Austin (26-24).
UW took a 9-4 lead in the third set, causing the Buffs to use their first timeout early. CU tried to chip away at the Huskies lead, but weren’t able to keep pace with UW. The Huskies extended their lead to 19-3 and finished the set 25-15.
The fourth set was another close one before the Buffs were able to go up 15-11 and extended it to 19-14. The Huskies got back within two points at 19-17, but CU answered with three points to retake a five-point advantage (22-17). The Buffs remained poised and held on to win one of the biggest matches in CU history 25-19. They hit .229 in the in the set, but more importantly held UW to .033.
The Buffs will be back in action on Sunday at 12 p.m. against the Washington State Cougars at the Coors Events Center.