BOULDER—Junior Taylor Simpson and sophomore Alexis Austin each recorded 11 kills for the University of Colorado volleyball team, but unfortunately it was not enough as the St. Mary’s College Gaels won the first match of the Omni Hotels Colorado Volleyball Classic on Friday night 25-17, 25-16, 22-25, 25-19.
Simpson made her CU debut in the match and took 36 swings to lead the team. She also added six digs and a pair of block assists. Austin added two digs and three block assists in the effort.
“I think that Taylor carried a big load for us tonight,” coach Liz Kritza said. “I think that what she is going to learn as we continue through the season is that the more points you’re getting on the offensive side, the more serve-reception balls you’ll have to handle. That’s because other teams are constantly going to try to load our front-row outsides. I’m pleased, because she is a nice addition to the program, and I only look for her to continue improving.”
Returning to CU’s line-up on Friday night was redshirt senior Kerra Schroeder who led the team defensively with 10 digs. She added a pair of kills and one block assist in her return.
“Kerra played in multiple positions tonight,” Kritza said. “She’s okay with that, because this isn’t about any individual player’s performance—it’s about the overall win-loss. I like being able to talk about that openly with players, because they know that we all want the same thing.”
Senior Nikki Lindow had nine kills and hit .312 for the Buffs. She also led the team with five block assists. Junior Kelsey English added seven kills and three block assists on the night. Freshman Joslyn Hayes had a nice debut for the Buffs as she hit .333 with five kills in her first career start.
“Hayes, as a freshman, was pretty productive,” Kritza said. “The thing with her is that I have to remember that she is still a freshman. There are some limitations right now until she gets more repetition. She contributed at a high pace.”
In total, the Buffs recorded 48 kills, 44 digs and 9.0 team blocks, while hitting .246. The Gaels put together 53 kills, 53 digs, 11.0 team blocks and hit .246.
SMC was led by Jordan Shaw who hammered 14 kills and hit .370. Kristina Graven added 12 kills and 11 digs for SMC. The Gaels, a 2012 NCAA Tournament Team, received votes in the AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll after finishing the 2012 season with an 18-11 overall record.
“They [St. Mary’s] were a lot more stable on their first contacts; that’s the story of the match,” Kritza explained. “We knew going in that the team who could win the serve-pass game would win, especially early in the season. This is a good team; they are organized, and they don’t make a ton of errors, as evidenced by being able to withstand some of our runs tonight. For us, there are a lot of really good things, lots of positives. Clearly, we’re disappointed, because we wanted to be able to have a more consistent group of our plays. For us, this is the beginning of a very long season that we know is going to be very productive.”
The Buffs got off to a great start in the first set, taking a 5-1 lead. The Gaels rallied back to tie the set up at 7-7. The set was close until CU was up 12-11; and at that point SMC put together a 10-0 run to take a 21-12 advantage. The Buffs kept attacking, but weren’t able to close the gap as the Gaels won 25-17.
The second set also started out well for CU and the Buffs had a 5-4 lead before SMC took three straight points to take a 7-5 lead. CU came back and tied the game at 8-8, but at that point the Gaels recorded six of seven points to go up 14-9. The Buffs didn’t let up, but unfortunately couldn’t get back in the set and fell 25-16.
The third set was another close one with 10 ties. Neither team had more than a three-point lead at any point during the game. The Buffs used a 5-0 run to take a 22-20 lead over the Gaels, forcing SMC to use a timeout. CU took the first point out of the time out to take a three-point lead at 23-20. The Buffs had set point at 24-21 thanks to a kill from Austin, but SMC fought off the first set point (24-22). The Buffs finished the set with a kill from Simpson on the following point (25-22).
The Buffs and Gaels played a tight fourth game until SMC took a five-point lead at 14-9. The Gaels extended their lead to eight points at 20-12, forcing the Buffs to use a timeout. The Buffs took the following three points out of the break, but it wasn’t enough as they dropped the fourth set 25-19.
Colorado and St. Mary’s will square off again on Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the final match of the Omni Hotels Colorado Volleyball Classic. Early arriving fans will receive mini-volleyballs, courtesy of the Omni Hotels.
“The beauty of this type of double-header is that you can measure yourself; it’s virtually the same team,” Kritza said. “You can actually learn how to scout opponents; you can learn to come back. I think it’s very important for us, especially in nonconference play, to have a test like this at the very beginning.”