Volleyball Opens Denver Invitational with Win

There's nothing overly phenomenal about them. While accurate, their serves certainly aren't overpowering, and they are a team of collectively average height. Still, it's clear in just the five games that the Colorado University volleyball team has played thus far this season that the Buffaloes have a knack for the most important intangible in sports: finding a way to win.

The Buffaloes volleyball team did just that Friday night, opening their in-state schedule with a 3-0 win over the Central Florida Golden Knights in the first game of the Pioneer Invitational at Hamilton Gym in Denver, 30-22, 30-26, 30-23.

Freshman Austin Zimmerman led a CU defense that held Central Florida to a .124 serve percentage. Zimmerman had 11 of Colorado's 48 digs in addition to six kills and two blocks.

The Buffaloes fell behind early in the first game, but rallied behind stellar play from Zimmerman, among others, to eventually claim the first game of the match and set the tone for the eventual victory.

Play in the second game of the match unfolded much the same way it had in the first, as the Golden Knights utilized their aggressive net play to force their way into to an early 12-6 advantage over the Buffs. CU was able to regain composure and momentum, however, rallying late to take a 19-18 lead on a frontcourt spike from sophomore Allie Griffin, which tilted game momentum into Colorado's favor. The Buffaloes held on to that momentum throughout what remained of the second game and fended off a late UCF rally to earn a 2-0 match advantage.

Play seemed more evenly matched as the teams began the third set; as UCF erased an early 3-0 Buffalo lead to begin the final game and scored on five consecutive serves to claim an early 6-4 advantage. The strong defensive play of the Knights continued as the game progressed, keeping UCF ahead throughout the early portion and forced Colorado to play arguably its best volleyball of the match to take a 13-11 lead midway though the third.

Colorado was able to make a brief run to open a four-point Buffalo advantage, but Central Florida was quick to recover and begin a quick rally of their own that allowed them a fleeting one-point lead. It turned out to be their last because as quickly as UCF's rally had begun, CU put a stop to it following three consecutive blocks from Griffin which all led to six unanswered Colorado points and ultimately provided CU with the momentum it needed to complete the sweep of the Golden Knights. UCF never got within seven of the streaking Buffs from that point on, allowing Colorado to cruise to its fourth win of the season.

"We were more aggressive in the back row tonight," Austin Zimmerman said. "In Maine it seemed that we held back at times, but tonight we were really ‘balls to the walls,' getting to and under everything."

Zimmerman was just a portion of what made CU's Friday night sweep so complete.

Monique Gerlach, CU's senior all-time hitting percentage leader (.333) had a relatively slow offensive, but more than made up for it with her defensive numbers, tallying a team-high five blocks in addition to eight digs. The Buffs as a team had nine blocks, five of which came in the third and final game.

The Buffs will conclude the tournament with a double header at Hamilton Gymnasium tomorrow as the Pioneer Invitational continues. CU will face Illinois State at 10 a.m. followed by a match up with the host Pioneers at 7:30 p.m.

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