Buffs set to have 15 matches televised in 2016

The Colorado volleyball team will have 15 matches, 10 home and five away, featured this season on Pac-12 Networks, starting with both matches of the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge, one of the most prestigious nonconference tournaments, on Sept. 3-4.

The Buffs will host Penn State at 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at the Coors Events Center, which is also head coach Jesse Mahoney's first home game. The second match for the Buffs of the challenge against Illinois at 6 p.m. Sept. 4 will also be televised live.

CU will not have any other nonconference matches televised, despite playing a very exciting schedule. The Buffs open the season Aug. 26-27 at the Portland State Tournament (Portland, Ore.) and will also play on the road at the San Diego Invitational (San Diego, Calif.), Sept. 9-10. The Buffs will also host the Omni Invitational on the final weekend of nonconference play, Sept. 16-17, which includes a match against in-state rival Colorado State. It will be the first match against the Rams at the CEC since 2008.

Thirteen of CU's 20 league contests will be on Pac-12 Networks, starting with the first six of the season. The Buffs open up conference action with four consecutive home matches, hosting Utah (Sept. 21), Arizona (Sept. 25), USC (Sept. 30) and UCLA (Oct. 2).


After that, Colorado will hit the road for contests against Stanford (Oct. 7) and California (Oct. 9), which will both be televised on Pac-12 Networks. The Buffs then travel to the Pacific Northwest the following week to face Washington State and Washington in a pair of matches (Oct. 14-16) that will be streamed on the Pac-12 Digital Network.

CU will return home to take on Oregon State (Oct. 21) in yet another TV match before hosting Oregon (Oct. 22), wrapping up the first half of the conference slate.

The Buffs begin the second half of the Pac-12 schedule in Los Angeles, facing UCLA (Oct. 28) in a TV match and USC (Oct. 29). CU returns home to host Stanford (Nov. 4) and California (Nov. 6) in another duo of TV contests, but the following two contests on the road against Oregon (Nov. 10) and Oregon State (Nov. 12) will be streamed online.

The final home match on TV for CU is against Washington on Nov. 18 and the Buffs will celebrate senior day against Washington State on Nov. 20, the last home match of the regular season. The final two matches of the season will both be televised. Colorado will face Arizona State for the first time of the season on Nov. 23 in Tempe, Ariz., before ending the regular season at Utah (Salt Lake City) on Nov. 25.

Tickets for the 2016 volleyball season can be purchased online at CUBuffs.com or by calling 303-49-BUFFS. The slate for new head coach Mahoney includes early dates against national powers Penn State and Illinois, in addition to a visit from state rival Colorado State on Sept. 23. Individual game tickets begin at $12 for reserved seating and $8 for general admission. Season ticket packages also available, and as in past seasons admission for kids 12 and under is free.

The University of Colorado volleyball team felt deserving of an NCAA tournament berth in 2015 but the selection committee disagreed.

When the dust settled on their 19-13 season, the Buffaloes were one of several bubble teams left out of the NCAA bracket. At Colorado's media day in early August, the players in attendance were adamant that they are focused on not putting themselves in the same position this year.

Their goals is to avoid the bubble altogether.

"Obviously it was devastating not making it to the tournament, especially after making it the past two years," Buffaloes senior Cierra Simpson said. "But I think the mindset we're coming into with this year as a whole is putting ourselves in a position where we know we're in the tournament, we're not even on the bubble and it's not going to come down to crossing our fingers at the last minute.

"There are a lot of things we can do early in the season, especially with nonconference matches, to make sure that we aren't in a situation where, like I said, we won't be crossing our fingers or anything like that."

Looking to play their way back in the NCAA tournament after qualifying in both 2013 and 2014, the Buffaloes will be doing so under first-year head coach Jesse Mahoney. Hired in December, Mahoney was the head coach at the University of Denver for the past four seasons, leading the Pioneers to an 88-41 record and back-to-back NCAA tournament berths in 2014 and 2015. His return to CU brings his coaching career full-circle, having gotten his start as the head coach of the CU men's club volleyball team from 1995-98.

The Buffs also are carrying an 18-player roster, which is bigger than Mahoney has had in the past. With such a large roster and a new head coach, the Buffs may need some extra time for players to fall into roles and for the new faces to adjust to Mahoney's coaching style.

Whoever ends up in what roles for the Buffs in 2016, the goal is definitely to get back to the NCAA tournament after being passed over last winter.

"It motivated us," junior setter Gabby Simpson said. "Not making the tournament was unfortunate but we're all really excited for the season because not making it was so hard on all of us."

Brad Cochi: twitter.com/BradCochi