Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Buffs earn highest preseason ranking at sixth
The University of Colorado volleyball team earned its highest Pac-12 Conference preseason ranking since joining the league in 2011, placing sixth overall, and senior Alexis Austin was named to the Preseason All-Pac-12 team.
Colorado recorded 61 points to round out the top half of the poll. Stanford, which won the league title in 2014, received 11-first place votes for the top spot (121 points).
Austin, an outside hitter, has been made a huge impact for the Buffs as a starter for the last three seasons. She was named to the All-Pac-12 team at the end of the 2014 season, when she averaged 3.19 kills per set.
The 2015 season officially starts tonight as CU hosts San Diego at 6:30 in the second match of the Omni Hotels Colorado Volleyball Classic.
Season tickets start at just $25 for general admission and are on sale now online or by calling 303-49-BUFFS. Reserved seats are $40 for the season and floor seats are available for $50. New this year is the Volleyball VIP Package which gives fans a floor seat, access to VIP parking, pre-match chalk talks with the coaches, special entrance access and admission the volleyball banquet. These are available for $500. Fans interested in floor seats or the VIP Package, please call 303-492-8130.
Single-match tickets are also available. General admission seats are $5, reserved seats are $8 and floor seats can be purchased for $10. Kids 12 and under are free.
vs. San Diego (Omni Classic)
vs. Florida State (Omni Classic)
vs. Oklahoma (Omni Classic)
at Penn State
(University Park, Pa.)
at S. Houston St.
vs. Montana St. (Omni Invitational)
vs. Weber State (Omni Invitational)
vs. George Mason (Omni Invitational)
vs. Air Force (Omni Invitational)
at Oregon State
at Arizona State
vs. Oregon State
vs. Arizona State
vs. Washington St.
The player panel of Alexis Austin, Nicole Edelman and Cierra Simpson on simply lit up when getting to talk about how they were recruited by Liz Kritza to the University of Colorado women’s volleyball team.
At the heart of each of their answers to that question during media day at the Dal Ward Athletic Center over the summer was one idea: helping rebuild the program into a powerhouse like that of the mid-90s era Buffaloes.
As seniors, Austin and Edelman can view the past two seasons as evidence that mission of simply rebuilding and re-establishing a healthy future for the program is complete. But that rapid ascent has also opened their eyes for the potential of 2015, especially with nine letterwinners and six starters from the rotation returning.
“I can’t believe it’s my last year here, it’s just really flown by,” Edelman, a Fairview High graduate, said. “Alexis and I, as seniors, we came here because we wanted to build the program. The program was mediocre when we got here, and we really wanted to push that and get us on the national map.
“In the past two years, we’ve done that. It’s been challenging and it’s been fun, and I’ve had the best experiences of my life here playing. It should be a really good year, and I’m excited to get started.”
Edelman, Cierra Simpson, Gabby Simpson and Austin already earned a chance to work together a lot this summer. For a week in late June, they trained with the USA Volleyball Collegiate National Team, a 36-member group for which they had to try out.
Going through the experiences of tryouts together, making the team as a foursome and then getting put to the grind daily in a different, competitive atmosphere impressed on Austin what she hopes the four of them can bring back to CU practices.
As Kritza has established every year, the team trained for a while at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, a venue that lends itself to fewer distractions.
“It really was, every day going to the gym and playing as hard as you can,” said Austin, who may be looked to as the primary attacker on the outside. “For all of us, our level of play picked up a lot. Now, we’re trying to push everybody else in that same direction, to where we’re going all out every game, every practice.”
Getting into the Pac-12 title race in the 30th year of the program’s existence is within reach. Along with the four previously mentioned starters, middles Katelyn Cuff and Anna Pfefferle return. Cuff is still just a junior, while Pfefferle is a sophomore.
Completely designed, there’s not a lot of wiggle room for the Buffs to get organized and get on the right path that hopefully leads to a third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The preseason will test CU’s mettle, as it will face four teams who finished in the top 10 in RPI in 2014 — including Florida State, Oklahoma and national champion Penn State.
Colorado will host FSU and Oklahoma during the Omni Hotels Colorado Volleyball Classic this weekend.
“It’s a little bold, some may have other words for it, but the level of play in the Pac-12 is such that if you don’t challenge your team early … you might fall and have losses you can’t recoup,” Kritza said ahead of her seventh season at the helm. “It’s about understanding how to play at the highest possible level and actually doing it over and over.”