Wednesday night, that direction was CU's looming two-game road trip that many players and fans believe, could make or break this season's CU volleyball effort.
Colorado extended their current Big 12 win streak to a season best three games as the Buffs downed the Oklahoma Sooners 30-22, 30-22, 30-19 Wednesday night at the Coors Events Center. The win was a necessary stepping stone for the Buffs, who embark on a two-game road trip that will pit them against No. 8 Kansas State Saturday night.
Team captain Monique Gerlach and sophomore Maragda Santillana each had better than 25 of CU's 116 team attacks on the night. Meanwhile 6-foot sophomore Nicole Carr sured up an overpowering Colorado defense, tallying a game-high 10 digs on a night when the Sooners out-blocked CU 10-2.
"The whole team is being so aggressive", noted Santillana, who herself ushered a .444 serve percentage on the night. "Our chemistry's gotten so big now that it doesn't seem like anyone can break it."
The Buffs rode a trio of consecutive points behind serves from Gerlach to an early 7-4 advantage in the first game and kept the pressure on, riding another three points in a row to an 11-6 lead, forcing Oklahoma to spend its first timeout. Austin Zimmerman recorded her first and the team's second serve ace of the match, lifting the Buffs to a five point lead. Oklahoma freshman Joanna Schmidt rallied the Sooners to within two before a Zimmerman block broke OU momentum and asserted a 21-18 Colorado lead. The Buffs sealed the first game using a 5-0 run that saw phenomenal CU defense and a blistering crosscourt spike from Santillana, lifting Colorado to an eight-point 28-20 advantage the squad would easily use to close out the set.
CU began the second game by rallying from an early 5-2 deficit to tie the match at 6-6 following notable defensive net play from the Buff front line of Gerlach and 6-foot sophomore Allison Barnes, after Oklahoma had used its own defense to claim an early advantage on an initially sluggish CU offense. The Buffaloes would gain an essential advantage as game two progressed, riding the exceptional offensive net play of Santillana to a 22-18 lead. A Gerlach crosscourt kill out of Oklahoma's first timeout of the second game allotted CU a 26-20 advantage, allowing the Buffs to once again ease into victory in the match's second game as Allie Griffin elevated to kill match point.
Colorado made it a point to squander whatever life remained in Oklahoma as the third game began. With the match sweep in sight, CU took advantage of numerous offensive and defensive Sooner mishaps to gain a staggering 9-3 lead on Oklahoma in early action. OU's team fluidity reached a low point midway through the final game of the match when outside hitters Christina Maynes and Schmidt collided while pursuing a misguided set. The mistake allowed CU a 17-12 lead in a third quarter that the Buffaloes owned. Oklahoma would never lead in the third set of the match, and Colorado breezed to their third consecutive sweep of Big 12 opposition and their tenth straight set victory on the year.
Colorado volleyball as a program is accustomed to domination over the Sooners. CU holds a 29-9 series advantage over Oklahoma and have won the last 12 overall, and the last 14 matches played in Boulder dating back to the 1988 season.
The Buffaloes entered Wednesday night's contest in a four-way tie for fourth place in the Big 12; their 5-3 conference mark locked with Texas A&M, Kansas, and Baylor. Nebraska, Kansas State, and Missouri still hold league advantage over the Buffs; three teams that Colorado still has to play a total of four combined times before the regular season ends on Nov. 28.
As a team, Colorado leads the Big 12 conference in both team assists per game (15.36) and kills per game (17.05) during conference play. Colorado also ranks nationally in the same categories; owning the 8th best kills figure and 16th best team assist mark in the nation.
Colorado hopes to extend its longest conference win streak of the season to four games Saturday night as the Buffs travel to No. 8 Kansas State to begin a two-game road trip in what could be its most vital match of what remains of the regular season.