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The CU women’s volleyball team fought hard for its last home match and senior Michelle Miller’s last game in Coors, but lost in three to the University of Southern California Trojans (31-29, 25-19, 25-17) on Saturday night.
It was senior night, and the Buffs were determined to play their heart out for their only senior Michelle Miller’s last home match.
“I talked to the team before the game and everyone really just wanted to do their best and play their hardest for my last game,” Miller said. “It’s almost unreal that I am never going to play here ever again.
CU totaled 42 kills, with 21 of them coming in the first set. Sophomore outside hitter Neira Ortiz Ruiz had 11 kills, and freshman outside hitter Alexis Austin added nine of her own.
The Buffs came out and played a much stronger match than they had against UCLA the previous night. Junior middle hitter Nikki Lindow said that a big difference from last night was passing.
“Passing was awesome tonight,” Lindow said. “We had some moments, but that is going to happen with us. That is what we are working on. At least for me, as a middle I love great passes. When [middles] are able to score, it opens up everything, and makes the game almost unselfish. I have to give credit to our passers today.”
On the other hand, Lindow said, the Buffs let external influences get to them.
“I think we let the refs kind of get into our heads tonight, and we could not overcome it mentally,” Lindow said. “We have all the skill in the world and we played it out and we let the frustration get to us in the many unwanted calls that we got.”
The Buffs started the first set with some big hits, but the Trojans stayed with them. The score was tight for the beginning of the set, tied at two and again at six. The Buffs got a little lead and went up 11-9 after a kill by Austin. After a hiring error by USC, the Buffs increased their lead to 13-10 and the Trojans called their first timeout. Following the timeout, the Trojans won the next four points to take the lead from the Buffs (14-13), causing CU to call its first timeout. CU got the first point after the break to tie it up again at 14-14. The score stayed close, but the Trojans took the lead at 21-20. The Buffs would take the next two of three to go up 23-22. After a hitting error by the Buffs, the Trojans tied it up again at 24-24. After four set-point opportunities, the Buffs were unable to convert, and the Trojans won the set 31-29.
Head coach Liz Kritza said that it was disappointing not pulling out the first set, but that her team had to move on from it.
“We just couldn’t pull that one out,” Kritza said. “It’s a little difficult when you get so close, yet you fall short. You take the frustration and set it aside and look at the tactics we did incorrectly and fix those.”
The Trojans started the second set with a 3-1 lead. They kept their lead after two mis-serves by the Buffs (9-6). CU, however, got the next five points to take the lead 11- 9, making USC call a timeout. Following the timeout, the score tightened and was tied at 15-15. USC then made a 5-0 run to take the lead again (20-15). CU then called its second timeout of the set, and the Trojans won the set 25-19.
USC had a quick 4-1 lead to start the third. The Buffs fought back and tied it up at 4-4. USC won the next three points and took the lead again at 7-4. This set was out of the Buffs’ hands quickly, though, as the Trojans went up 15-9. A hitting error by the Buffs gave USC a wider lead of 19-11 and caused CU to call its last timeout. The Buffs fought off three match points, but the Trojans finished the set and won the match 25-17.
CU is on the road for the remainder of the season, playing the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Stanford University and the University of Utah.
“We are going on a 10-day road trip,” Kritza said. “We will play four matches in seven days, all on the road. We want to just test ourselves to the max. This is where we prove how strong we are.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jillian Arja at Jillian.Arja@colorado.edu.