Written by  in Front PageSportsVolleyball on Sep 24, 2011 6:25 / comments

The University of Colorado volleyball team is struggling to find its flow with a key player missing.

Against the No. 15 Oregon Ducks at the Coors Events Center on Friday night, Colorado fell in three sets (25-13, 25-13, 25-14).

The Buffs played without senior setter Alyssa Valentine, whom teammate junior Kerra Schroeder described as the team’s “quarterback.” Valentine sprained her ankle on Thursday night during a team practice, and her prognosis is still unclear.

Head coach Liz Kritza said her players had difficulty adjusting to a brand new setup in the absence of Valentine.

“Anytime we change lineups there will be an adjustment period,” Kritza said. “The longer the team plays in a certain lineup together, the more comfortable they get. I expect it to get better with more time.”

The Buffs did the best they could to maintain a strong level of play, but they couldn’t keep pace with the Ducks.

The only time the Buffs held a lead in the entire match was early in the first set. Once they lost it, at 5-4, they never regained momentum.

The Ducks built to a 20-10 lead, and while CU attempted a post-timeout rally, the Ducks were able to secure the 25-13 win. Oregon ended up holding CU to a .000 percentage during the first set while recording a .256 themselves.

In the second set, Oregon quickly built up a 13-8 lead. The Buffs scored on a few kills by Schroeder and freshman Kelsey English, but the Ducks continued to respond, gaining a 21-12 advantage.

After CU’s second timeout of the set, the Ducks went on a 3-1 run to finish the set 25-13. Hitting .548 in the second set, the Ducks held CU to a .296 percentage.

The final set didn’t look much better for the Buffs, as Oregon quickly built a 14-7 lead. While the Buffs were able to tighten that gap to 15-11, they couldn’t quite come back. The Ducks ended up with a 25-14 set victory and the overall win, hitting .385 compared to CU’s .034.

When the match was over, the Buffs headed to the locker room for a lengthy team meeting. Schroeder said the focus of their conversation was unity and mental toughness in the face of an unexpected challenge.

“We’ve been pushing really hard and everything,” Schroeder said. “We’ve just got to keep plugging.”

Kritza said she expects her team to respond to Valentine’s injury with determination and a drive to succeed.

“We have an entire locker room full of kids that are disappointed and angry, but also willing to do something about it,” Kritza said. “[My team has] committed to improving mentally. I know that they’re going to get it together.”

Colorado recorded 25 total kills and a .102 average hitting percentage compared to Oregon’s 46 kills and .385 percentage. The Buffs were led offensively by Schroeder, who had 10 kills and a .222 percentage, while redshirt freshman Emily Alexis contributed six kills.

Sophomore Erin Stock and junior Michelle Miller, who took over as setters in Valentine’s absence, had 14 and seven assists, respectively.

On the defensive end, sophomore Megan Beckwith recorded 13 of CU’s 30 total digs, while Schroeder added seven. Oregon recorded 39 total digs.

With the loss, Colorado’s record falls to 5-7 overall, and 0-4 in the Pac-12. The Ducks are now 10-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play.

The Buffs will play their next three matches at the Coors Events Center, which Kritza said will help her team recover and rest.

“We don’t have to worry about travel and acclimating to altitude,” Kritza said. “It’s important that we keep things as normal as we can.”

Colorado has a 24-hour turnaround period as they face the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

Friday and Saturday of next weekend they take on the No. 12 USC Trojans and the No. 7 UCLA Bruins.

Though USC and UCLA are both top-25 teams, Colorado won’t go down without a fight, Kritza said. “They’re going to fight better than anybody else to protect their home floor—they promised me that tonight.”

Photo credit: CU Independent file/Amy Leder

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Caryn Maconi at Caryn.maconi@colorado.edu.