Courtesy: Colorado Athletics
BOULDER – The University of Colorado women’s volleyball team finds itself a pair of games below .500 in conference play as the team heads to Arizona this weekend for a matchup with Arizona at 8 p.m. Friday in Tucson, Arizona, and a matchup Sunday against Arizona State at 3 p.m. in Tempe.
This situation is familiar to the Buffs as they were in a similar situation last season on their way to Arizona. The Buffs last season were 2-4 in conference play when they went to Arizona. CU won both games on the road and sparked a 7-1 run in conference play last season. This season the Buffs are 3-5 and look to pull even in conference play as the conference season wraps up the first half of play.
CU is a team led by the leadership of upperclassmen, all of which continue to shine as the season ages. The senior captain Alexa Smith continues to lead the team in kills with 261 and digs with 195, though some of the pressure has come off her shoulders lately. Naghede Abu, who posted her 500th career block this past weekend, led the team against the Oregon schools with a combined 26 kills. On the other side, junior Rachel Whipple stepped up with 38 digs to jump into a tie with Smith at 195 this season.
The signs that the Buffs are improving are clear to see, especially after this past weekend when three CU players posted huge career-highs. Abu led the charge with a career-high in kills against #14 Oregon with 17. She also tied her points record with 20.5, a record that dates back to her sophomore season. The other kills career-high came from Anyse Smith who hit a team-high 18 kills against Oregon. Her 4.5 kills per set is the second-highest mark she has achieved.
The final record came from Whipple, who shattered her career-high in digs by six with 25. This is the first time in her career she has averaged more than six digs per set.
The Buffs are middle of the pack in the conference in most statistical categories, with the peak coming as the fourth-best team in the conference in blocks per set at 2.47. The team also is fifth in hitting percentage (.246) and kills (960) as well as total blocks (178). Those equate to the Buffs being top-50 in the nation in blocks per set and hitting percentage.
SCOUTING ARIZONA: The Wildcats are one of the strongest hitting team in the nation with 14.3 kills per set, the 12th-best mark in the nation. Arizona started the season off with an eight-match win streak and entered conference play 11-1 with the lone loss a five-set loss to New Mexico State on the road. As of recent, No.25 Arizona has lost its last four matches against four ranked teams in Washington, Washington State, USC and UCLA. The Wildcats have not won a match in October.
Kendra Dahlke leads the conference in attacks per set and is fourth in the nation with more than 13 swings per set. She also leads the conference with more than five kills per set and is third in the nation in that category. The setter Julia Patterson leads the conference with the most assists at 821. Middle Devyn Cross leads the team with 79 total blocks, more than the next two Wildcats combined.
Arizona has been struggling with injuries, as Dahlke was out Sunday against USC after suffering a concussion against UCLA. Another outside, Elizabeth Shelton has missed eight-straight matches with a concussion.
SCOUTING ARIZONA STATE: Arizona State has been one of the streakiest teams in the conference this season. The Sun Devils have swept ranked opponents Washington and Oregon as well as Oregon State, then on the other hand were swept by Arizona, Washington State and UCLA. The Sun Devils have a similar opponent in Wyoming, who they lost to in four sets in Laramie. The last time the Sun Devils were home they swept No.15 Washington.
The Sun Devils are second in the conference in digs per set and opponent hitting percentage. Much of that is due to Courtney Leffel who has 314 digs. She is joined by Megan Beedie with a .381 hitting percentage, good for second in the conference. Outside hitter Ivana Jeremic leads the team with 236 kills. Defensively Carmen Unzue and Beedie lead the team with 61 and 50 blocks, respectfully.