Unlike a number of their classmates, members of the University of Colorado volleyball team were able to avoid a hangover Sunday afternoon. In the team's case, the after effect could have been generated by Friday night's party at the Coors Events Center in which the Buffs knocked off Washington, the No. 1 team in the country.
But CU was able to avoid a letdown similar to the one it suffered following its prior win against a ranked opponent, defeating Washington State in four sets (25-17, 25-21, 25-27, 25-19).
The Buffaloes got their first big win of the season when they defeated No. 11 UCLA in a five-set thriller at home on Sept. 27. However, CU was unable to build on that victory as they turned around and dropped a road match against an inferior Wyoming team four days later.
Head coach Liz Kritza let her displeasure with the team's inconsistent play be known following the loss, and the Buffs made sure they would not make the same mistake twice after Friday's win.
"It was a tough lesson learned, but it's one that we committed to each other, players and coaches alike, committed that it's something that we won't let happen again" Kritza said referring to the Wyoming loss. "Even today, we weren't necessarily playing at the same level (as Friday). But there was one thing that was certain, we were going to come away with the victory."
Though they ultimately got their W, the Buffs (12-3, 4-1) did display some shaky stretches throughout the day.
Colorado hurt itself by committing service errors on three of its first five serves, allowing the Cougars (14-4, 1-4) to tie the first game at 6-6. But the Buffs eventually found the distance and, backed by junior outside hitter Taylor Simpson's nine kills, took the game without much further resistance from WSU. Simpson, who came into the match averaging 11.5 kills per contest, enjoyed the significant height advantage she and several other Buffs shared over the Cougars and finished the afternoon with a total of 23 kills, a career-high.
"It was a hard fought match," Simpson said. "They got their hands on everything I hit, but I was getting great sets and we were doing really well passing-wise."
The Buffs appeared to settle in even more in the second game, pulling away late as senior middle blocker Nikki Lindow came alive, racking up six kills in the frame. She tallied 10 kills for the match when all was said and done.
Similar to Friday's match, the locker room break following the second game did no favors for the Buffs. CU led by as many as five points early and held a 21-18 advantage late, but then proceeded to drop four straight points to WSU. Though the game featured eight ties, the Buffs were never able to climb back on top, dropping the set 27-25.
While the loss of that game took some of the air out of the arena, CU quickly rebounded and jumped out to a 5-1 lead to begin the fourth. Though Kritza was forced to take a timeout after the lead was cut to one midway through, CU responded, and back-to-back kills by senior Kerra Schroeder and Simpson pushed the lead to 20-16. Several side outs and errors by WSU followed, allowing the Buffs to take the final game 25-19.
"I'm very proud," Kritza said. "In the locker room before the game we talked about this being more important than Friday's match, because it's the follow-up match. It's the one that lets us show that we're not just a team that can pull an upset and then dip down. It's part of establishing our identity in this league and across the country nationally in volleyball."
Colorado will now take to the road as they battle California on Wednesday night in Berkley. That matchup will be followed by a Saturday tilt against another ranked foe, No. 7 Stanford.