BOULDER, Colo. – The upstart Buffaloes, who upset UCLA at home just last weekend, played giant-killers again tonight, handing the No. 1-ranked Huskies their first loss of the season at the Coors Events Center. Aside from a strong third set, Washington (10-1, 2-1 Pac-12) was unable to put much consistent pressure on Colorado (10-3, 2-1 Pac-12), and its comeback attempt was cut short by the count of 25-17, 26-24, 15-25, 25-19.
Playing its third straight road match to start Pac-12 play, the Huskies suffered their first loss to Colorado since the Buffs joined the league. Washington did not have many advantages statistically, as it hit just .135, well under its previous season-low of .262 and under the .337 average coming in. Colorado, conversely, hit .282, the first time this season UW has been outhit.
Despite the loss, sophomore Lianna Sybeldon had an excellent night, carrying the offense for several stretches and finishing with 12 kills, matching junior Krista Vansant for the team high. Sybeldon also hit .440, making just one error on 25 swings. Taylor Simpson led Colorado with 17 kills and added 19 digs.
“They played well but we shot ourselves in the foot and had a tough time in transition,” said Head Coach Jim McLaughlin. ‘We’re going to have to learn from it. It hurts and hopefully it turns into some anger and we fix things with more urgency than we have. The question is were we ready to go for the game?”
Muñoz registered the first kill for the Dawgs from her right side spot. Vansant killed her first two swings and the teams were even at 4-4. Colorado then took the early momentum with three straight points for a 7-4 lead. Washington broke the run, but the Buffs picked up three more to open a 10-5 lead and force UW to call the first timeout. Strickland had a kill off a tough bump set from Beals out of the break. The first Husky ace from Nogueras cut it to 11-8. The teams traded sideouts, but Colorado remained hot on offense, pushing back to a 15-10 lead. A Beals ace made it 15-12, but Colorado got the sideout, and extended to its biggest lead at 19-13 after a Husky overpass and CU kill. Gabbi Parker got her first kill from the left out of the timeout, but the Huskies could not get a run going, as Colorado continued making plays all over the court, and pulled away to take the set, 25-17. Washington hit a very subpar .088 in the first set while the Buffs hit .378 with 17 kills to just nine for UW.
After having zero blocks in the first set, Washington started the second with a roof in the middle. The Buffs answered with a pair of blocks against Vansant to take a 6-4 lead. A tip kill for Colorado over the block made it 6-9 until Kaleigh Nelson connected from the right. The Dawgs had a swing to tie it but Muñoz was blocked on the right for 9-11. UW came back with a Parker kill and a Muñoz and Sybeldon stuff to get even at 11. Colorado got the sideout back and the teams traded points until the media timeout at 15-14 Buffs. The Huskies edged in front on a transition spike from Sybeldon, 16-15. Sybeldon put another through the block for 17-16. Colorado answered with a kill and a Husky miss to go back in front, until Sybeldon connected again for 18-all. A wild rally with a quick-reflexed dig from Beals ended in Colorado bumping one out and the Buffs took time as UW went up, 21-20. The Buffs killed in serve-receive, then Nelson came back with a kill up the line. Nelson then had a miss wide on a good chance, but Wade got sideout right back. Colorado won another frantic rally tie it at 23, and then blocked Parker on the next play to get set point at 24-23 and force UW to call timeout. Out of the break, Nelson saved set point with a kill, but UW couldn’t get the dig up on the next rally. On their second set point, the Buffs dug Nelson and set it up for a kill from . The Huskies were again outhit in set two, .302 for Colorado to just .179 for the Dawgs.
Some tough early defense helped the Huskies force the Buffs into a few early third set errors, as UW took its biggest lead of the night to that point at 6-3. A quick Beals set to Sybeldon in trans was followed by a short Wade ace for a 9-4 lead and Colorado took the early timeout. Wade ate up the back row defender with another ace right out of the timeout. Another point off the hand of Sybeldon kept the lead at 13-7. Vansant earned a key kill as Colorado looked to make a run, slamming it for 15-10. Nelson went high off the fingertips of the block for a kill and a 17-11 lead. Strickland wiped one off the block and down to keep the Huskies moving forward at 18-13, then she finished the next point on a bump set from Orlandini with a smash up the line. A Vansant hammer off an overpass made it 21-14 and forced Colorado’s last timeout. Muñoz had a solo roof against Alexis Austin out of the timeout, then Colorado missed wide as the Huskies continued to pull away. Another block after a lengthy rally got UW to set point at 24-14. The Buffs served into the net to end it, 25-15. The Huskies outhit the Buffs in the frame, .259 to .185.
Colorado swung the momentum to start the fourth set, taking four of the first five points to force UW into the early timeout. Muñoz and Wade got a key block out of the timeout to snap the early streak. Parker subbed in for Wade down 2-6, and tipped one in for a kill on the next ball. Tough Vansant serving led to a couple more Colorado errors and then Nelson and Parker had an emphatic rejection of Simpson on the left side to tie it up at 6-6 and force Colorado’s first timeout. Colorado stopped the 4-0 run with a kill out of the break, but Parker answered with a quick set kill in the middle. A 3-0 Colorado run pushed the lead back to 11-8 and forced Washingotn’s last timeout. Muñoz killed an overpass to cut the gap back to one at 11-12, but UW lost a long rally on the next one and then hit long to fall back down three. Vansant was then blocked for 11-15. The Huskies could not sustain any runs on serves as Colorado continued to swing away like the first two sets and convert, opening up a five point lead. Parker hammered one off the block and down for 14-18. A big stuff from Muñoz and Sybeldon crept the Huskies closer at 16-19, then Strickland stuffed down a Buffs tip attempt for 17-19, forcing Colorado’s last timeout. Colorado hammered a kill straight down out of the timeout after a perfect pass. Washington then followed with two straight errors as the deficit grew again to 22-17 before Colorado missed serve. Washington made a bad call and let a serve drop for an ace to quickly arrive at match point at 24-18. Vansant saved one with a kill, but Parker was called for a bad set on the next point and the stunned Huskies were off after the 25-19 loss. UW’s attack percentage dropped again in the fourth set down to .033, with Colorado hitting .229.
Washington won’t have much time to dwell on the loss, as it wakes up Saturday and travels to Salt Lake City for another tough road match at Utah at 6 p.m. Pacific time.