Buffs Drop Key Loss in Last Home Game

<b>Nicole Carr</b> had a game high 15 kills and the Buffs had two players with better than 20 assists, but it wasn't enough as the University of Colorado volleyball team dropped a clutch match in its final home game of the season 3-1; 31-33, 30-15, 18-30, 26-30 to No. 10 Nebraska Wednesday night at the Coors Events Conference Center.

"It's always disappointing to put up that kind of effort and come up shot," head coach Pi'i Aiu said after seeing his teams' five game win streak, a season high in conference play this year, come to an end. "But getting there, the fact that we came that close, I think is a good thing. That we can be proud of."

The Huskers outhit Colorado on the night .191 to .096, and a decidedly a larger Nebraska team took full advantage of its pronounced height advantage, earning 21.5 blocks to Colorado's six in CU's first loss since dropping a 3-1 decision to Kansas State on Nov. 1.

"It's sort of a double-edged sword," said senior captain Monique Gerlach of her final home game Wednesday night. "You feel proud of having played so well, but at the same time we're disappointed because we lost.

"We've been on such a good run. I don't think that this is the kind of loss that's going to take down our spirits."

A 4-0 Nebraska run late in game one gave the Huskers a pivotal 25-21 advantage. CU would rally back, scoring four of the game's next six points on its way to eventually tying the set at 25-25. A tip from Maragda Santillana following a clutch dig by sophomore Allie Griffin gave CU an important two-point advantage as the teams approached the match ceiling. Not to be outdone, Nebraska would once again rally back, as numerous crushing offensive miscues by the Buffs allowed Nebraska a 30-30 tie after the Huskers were able to score on two consecutive plays. NU completed a 3-0 run as a block on an attack by Gerlach was shot back into the CU frontcourt, putting the Huskers in position to score the winning point. Nebraska's chance to end the game there in the form of a Melissa Elmer score sailed just inches over the back end line, though, with Gerlach confidently allowing the would-be winner to sail just wide. It would prove NU's last miscue of the first game, as the resilient Huskers put away game one with a long attack from senior Sara Westling, followed up by a Westling serve which seemed just too much for Griffin to handle.

Colorado owned the second game of the match from the onset. The Buffs jumped out to a 6-2 lead over the Huskers and never looked back, taking advantage of two separate 5-0 runs, and another of 7-0 to close out CU's biggest win in any one game since the final game of CU's 3-0 sweep of Baylor on Nov. 5 in Boulder, and its single biggest marginal victory for CU in the history of the series. Monique Gerlach led the Colorado attack in the historic second game after faltering slightly in the first, scoring six of her 11 kills in the game. Santillana added eight, and Griffin six in the set, in which CU outshot the Huskers .237 to .048.

Nebraska seemed to find the same key to success in beginning the third game of the set as Colorado had the second, as the Huskers wasted no time in jumping on the Buffs to a tune of a 7-1 lead out of the gate in the pivotal third game. The early 4-0 Husker run put CU in a hole it would never climb out of, as Nebraska hit a game-high .379 from the floor as a team, ensuring that Colorado would never lead in the game. The Buffs did manage to pull within as few as three as the period progressed, as a Nicole Carr tip made the score 13-10 Nebraska, but that would be as close as CU got in the game, which was dominated by the tenth-ranked Huskers who seemed to return to form. Nebraska used yet another 4-0 run late in the game to expand the NU lead to 23-14, effectively stomping out any hopes the Buffaloes had of taking a set lead anytime before game five.

The Huskers turned away kill after kill, with NU's front line earning nine of their 21.5 blocks on the match in the fourth game. Colorado was relentless in its attack, though, halting a 2-0 NU run which has increased the Husker lead to 23-19, and fighting back to tie the crucial game at 25-25, as a pair of kills from Carr and two offensive penalties on the Huskers Carr came up with one more huge left-side kill with the Buffs down 25-27, bringing the lead to a one-point margin which was immediately erased as Jennifer Saleaumua gave her team a clutch kill and returned Nebraska a two-point, 28-26 lead. Saleaumua came through again on the next series, placing a clutch tip past the outstretched dive of Monique Gerlach, and NU claimed the game and the match after one final kill attempt from Santillana sailed wide.

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