Volleyball to Face Pivotal Test in A&M

The University of Colorado volleyball team will see much of its postseason ambitions brought to light when it will be faced with easily CU's most important match of this regular season to date when it hosts No. 18 Texas A&M Wednesday night at 7:00 P.M. at the Coors Events Conference Center in Boulder.

The Buffs (17-8 overall; 9-6 Big 12) enter the contest riding the momentum of a two-game win streak, most recently a 30-17, 30-23, 30-25 sweep of Texas Tech (10-14; 2-13) Saturday night at the United Spirit Arena in Waco. Colorado, currently ranked eighth overall in the Big 12 in blocking, totaled double-digits in team blocks for the third time in four matches. CU had 13 ½ team blocks in the first two games alone, before finishing with 14 ½ all told. The Buffs are averaging 2.8 blocks per game over the last five matches.

"Texas Tech's sets were really tight tonight and we penetrated very well," freshman setter Ashley Nu'u said after the match. "Our middles also closed the blocks well, not leaving any space for their hitters to find the seams."

Nu'u herself led Colorado with three solo blocks on the night while senior middle blocker Monique Gerlach had three block assists. Nu'u had seven blocks, all by the end of game two, just one shy of CU's single match record for a setter. Nicole Vranesh (1990) and Jennifer Sherlock (1988) share the record eight.

Six-foot-four sophomore standout Maragda Santillana, who leads the team with 16 solo blocks on the season, was unable to steal a solo block on the Lady Raiders, but was able to contribute with four of CU's 19 team assists on the match. Freshman Austin Zimmerman, arguably CU's best all-around defensive asset; posting six solo and 61 block assists on the season, also added four assists Saturday night.

Colorado as a team has won four of its final five matches against Big 12 competition, losing only to No. 7 Kansas State 1-3 on Nov. 1. Wednesday night's match against the Aggies is the third in a series of four consecutive matches played against Texas competition, an annual occurrence vital to Colorado's NCAA Tournament hopes.

CU head coach Pi'i Aiu speculated after his team's 3-0 sweep of Baylor on Nov. 5 that his team would need to win at least four of its final six games to be "on the bubble" for Tournament contention during the first week of December.

Similarly, the Aggies have benefited from an ever-growing positive momentum. Texas A&M jumped three spots to No. 18 in the USA Today/American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll, released Monday by the AVCA. Their most recent victory, a 3-1 survival of Oklahoma Saturday night in College Station was impressive enough for the polling committee to bolster the Big 12 contender three spots in the national ranks in a highly competitive 2003 season.

A&M's Melissa Munsch, who had seven kills in seven attacks in the first game of the set win over the Sooners, led the Aggies with 17 kills and only one error in the match. She also posted team-highs with a .457 hitting percentage and six blocks as A&M outhit Oklahoma, .266 to .131.

In one of the most impressive streaks their conference has seen this season, the Aggies have claimed victory in nine of their last ten matches dating back to October 8, when they posted a 3-0 sweep over rival Texas Tech.

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