Volleyball Looks to Kick-Start Stretch Run

With still nine regular season games remaining before the start of Big 12 Tournament play in the first week of December, the University of Colorado volleyball team hopes that they haven't peaked too soon; that they're best performances of the season are still to come.

With still nine regular season games remaining before the start of Big 12 Tournament play in the first week of December, the University of Colorado volleyball team (14-7 overall; 6-5 Big 12) hopes that they haven't peaked too soon; that they're best performances of the season are still to come.

The resilient squad will begin a quest of sorts to prove just that to themselves and their fans as they'll battle in the lone road game sandwiched between three here in Boulder between now and November 5 against Iowa State (10-12; 2-9) Wednesday night in Ames.

Colorado is riding the momentum of a much-needed 3-2 win over Kansas on Friday, after dropping consecutive shutout losses to No. 8 Kansas State and No. 24 Missouri last week. The Buffs suffered both defeats away from Coors Events Center in a trip that the team knew would be among the most important two games it would play all regular season.

Sophomore outside hitter Maragda Santillana added to her noticeably improved season, contributing with a career-high 24 kills to lead CU in the wild win Friday. Santillana has proven herself as a definite presence in the Colorado midcourt this season, earning the distinction of being just one of four Buffaloes to average better than three kills per game over halfway through this regular season.

"I always play this way," Santillana said after a Colorado victory earlier in conference play. "It's just (this year) that you people are starting to notice."

As usual, CU has greatly benefited from the experience senior team captain Monique Gerlach has brought to the group's locker room, and nightly box score. Gerlach, who is Colorado's all-time program leader in career attack percentage (.331), expectedly leads the team in kills (260), and is second this season in total attacks (539) and blocks (59).

Sophomore Allie Griffin rounds out a Colorado defense which has carried the team through nearly all of its early season play and much of its conference action; stepping up to block opponent attacks a team-high 51 times this year. Griffin's efforts aren't the only ones being felt by Colorado opponents this season. Two other players, Gerlach and freshman Austin Zimmerman have each reached the half-century mark in the category; 51 and 50, respectively.

Iowa State, meanwhile, is feeling the most pressure it has all year to win coming into Wednesday's matchup, as the Cyclones have dropped three straight to Kansas, Kansas State, and Nebraska by a combined score of 9-1. The Cornhuskers dominated ISU's most recent defeat Saturday night offensively and defensively, hitting .307 from the floor and collecting 58 digs. Nebraska committed 19 hitting errors on 127 attacks, while the Cyclones were limited to 22 kills, a .016 hitting percentage and 47 digs. The Cyclones had six block assists and one solo block on the night.

Following their game Wednesday, the Buffaloes return to Boulder for a much-needed homestand in which they will host No. 8 Kansas State (20-3; 10-1) this Saturday night and then Baylor (11-13; 3-8) the following Wednesday.