Buffs win after decisive fifth set, hold off ASU

Members of the CU Volleyball team cheer after winning against Oregon on Sept. 30, 2017 (Bri Barnum/CU Independent)

Fresh off a 3-0 victory against Arizona on Friday, the Colorado Buffaloes women’s volleyball team played host to the Arizona State Sun Devils for a Saturday night showdown at the Coors Events Center.

The Buffs, who are unranked but received the most votes (78) out of all unranked teams in the most recent American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, faced stout competition from ASU. CU prevailed after forcing and winning the fifth set, 15-11.

For Colorado (21-8, 11-7 Pac-12), the sets read 26-28, 25-16, 24-26, 25-23 and 15-11.

The Sun Devils, which before the game were 0-17 in Pac-12 Conference play, put the Buffs on their heels early on.

“[I] congratulate Arizona State for playing hard,” head coach Jesse Mahoney said after the win. “They definitely made life tough for us.”

Colorado and ASU went punch-for-punch in the first set. The largest lead either team had was a three-point advantage by the Sun Devils — which happen multiple times.

Arizona State went up 2-0 initially. Three-straight kills from the Buffaloes, including a rocket from junior outside hitter Frankie Shebby, gave them an early lead. Things began to teeter-totter from there, as the scoreboard remained tight. Mahoney called a timeout after the Buffs went down 13-10.

Colorado rallied and eventually took a 19-17 lead thanks to another kill by Shebby, who led CU during the opening set with five.

A kill from senior opposite Joslyn Hayes put Colorado up 25-24, leading to a set point. ASU countered and eventually triumphed, taking the first set by the score of 28-26.

The Buffaloes answered nicely in the following set, putting together some nice flashes of offense. Colorado erupted and outscored ASU 16-7 after a 9-9 tie.

“In the second set we did a lot of things right,” Mahoney said. “We passed really well, we served and got [ASU] out of system. Our block really came alive.”

Colorado recorded eight blocks in the set and Shebby once again led the team with four kills. She finished the night with 16.

The Buffaloes were unable to carry over their hot finish into the third set. In similar fashion to the opening set, things stayed neck-and-neck until ASU edged Colorado in the final few sequences.

Colorado did a good job of stacking the neck throughout the night; it was a draw on Saturday in terms of blocks, as both teams registered 16.

ASU’s Peyton Grahovac and Oluoma Okaro were consistent troublemakers for the Buffs. The former proved adept at nailing opposite court kills while Okaro led all scorers with 25.

Colorado found itself pinned against a wall after ASU took a 2-1 lead in the game following a 26-24 win in set three.

Shebby drew first blood with the opening kill. A smart kill through traffic at the net by junior outside hitter Alexa Smith put Colorado up 3-0 early on in the do-or-die fourth set.

The Buffs maintained a lead until ASU tied things at nine. Following three-straight kills by the Sun Devils (of which two came courtesy of Okaro), Mahoney called a timeout with his team down 16-13.

CU continued to battle a deficit before tying things late. With the scoreboard reading 23-23, two-straight attack errors by the Sun Devils handed the Buffs a 25-23 set win, forcing a final fifth set.

“What we did really well [in the fourth set] was [that] we stayed calm,” said Smith, who led Colorado with 22 kills, following the win. “A lot of times, teams get frantic in those situations but we handled it on our side. We knew what we needed to get done.”

The Buffaloes took an early 4-1 lead thanks to three-straight kills from Smith and an attack error on ASU. The Sun Devils bounced back and tied things at five on a service ace.

The Buffs then managed five unanswered points, going up 10-5.

Shebby had two service errors in the closing minutes, but up 14-11, Smith and junior middle blocker Naghede Abu recorded a block on Okaro. This sealed the comeback, as the Buffaloes prevailed at home to earn the 3-2 victory. Abu recorded 10 kills in the win.

In total, five Buffs scored kills in the double digits, as Hayes added 13 while senior middle blocker Anna Pfefferle contributed 12. Shebby also led the team with 18 digs. Junior defensive specialist/libero Gabby Carta-Samuels was next in that regard with 14.

The Buffs have three remaining contests left and will hit the road for Berkeley, California, for a showdown with the Cal Bears on Wednesday, Nov. 22. The game starts at 4 p.m.

Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at justin.guerriero@colorado.edu and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_HIppo.

Justin Guerriero

Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero is a city boy from Pittsburgh, PA, who fell in love with the mountains upon touring CU Boulder for the first time prior to his freshman year. He is a diehard Pittsburgh sports fan and covers whatever needs to be covered at the CUI. Justin is a junior majoring in broadcast production with minors in history and communication. Follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo

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