COLORADO SPRINGS – After 11 matches on the road dating back nearly a month, Colorado College got after it right off the bat on Friday.
The 11th-ranked Tigers celebrated their return to friendly Reid Arena with a no-nonsense thumping in Game 1, then finished off a very good Nebraska Wesleyan University team in straight sets, 25-10, 25-22, 25-21, in the first of four weekend matches at their annual Spike It Up Classic.
The victory was CC's second in a row since suffering its first and only defeat of the season on Sunday, when Trinity University prevailed in a five-game neutral-site showdown in Georgetown, Texas.
Combined with a 25-11, 25-22, 25-10 triumph over the University of La Verne later Friday evening, it also gave head coach Rick Swan's squad a 20-1 overall record for the season.
"It shows a little character," Swan said. "We talked about how the loss to Trinity was just going to make us stronger, make us better. They came in very focused and worked hard in practice this week. We made some adjustments, improved in little areas. At this time of year, that's all we can ask for – taking small steps of improvement, trying to get better every single day we walk into the gym."
The visiting Prairie Wolves, 13-3 overall and a contender in the tough NAIA Great Plains Athletic Conference, grabbed an early 2-1 lead in Game 1 and trailed only 10-8 before Colorado College won 15 of the last 17 points.
A dozen of those came on consecutive serves by sophomore setter Devon Lucero, whose run forced Nebraska Wesleyan to burn two timeouts while falling behind by a 22-8 count.
"I was really happy with our serving today," said Swan. "I thought we got them 'out of system' quite a bit. We felt that if we could do that, we'd have the ability to get more digs and be able to run our offense effectively."
While NWU's Alyssa Stanek led both teams with 14 kills in the middle, Colorado College was successful in limiting 6-foot outside hitter Katelyn Walsh to seven while holding the Prairie Wolves to an .070 attack percentage for the match.
Freshman Abbe Holtze paced CC, which hit .238 overall including a .314 mark in Game 1, with 13 kills. Junior Kristen Liberty and sophomore Courtney Birkett added seven apiece while Lucero, who finished with 32 assists, chipped in with six and a match-best .500 attack percentage.
The Tigers recorded 75 digs, 22 of them by sophomore libero Sophie Merrifield and 15 more by Birkett.
Colorado College Spike It Up Classic
Hamline University def. University of La Verne, 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 25-22)
Colorado College def. Nebraska Wesleyan University, 3-0 (25-10, 25-22, 25-21)
Nebraska Wesleyan def. Hamline, 3-1 (25-20, 25- 17, 22-25, 25-17)
Colorado College def. La Verne, 3-0 (25-11, 25-22, 25-?)