Rivalry matchup between CSU and CU couldn’t have higher stakes

Haleigh Hamblin

CSU defensive specialist Kaitlind Bestdgen digs the ball during Saturday's match against Denver.
CSU defensive specialist Kaitlind Bestdgen digs the ball during Saturday’s match against Denver.

With one Colorado team knocked off by No.9 Colorado State volleyball, another prepares for the ultimate Centennial State matchup. No. 9 CSU and No. 19 Colorado earned spots in the second round of the NCAA Tournament with wins over fellow Colorado teams Denver and Northern Colorado.

Saturday’s matchup at 4:30p.m. will be the definition of bragging rights, with the winner taking the title as the best volleyball team in the state as well as a ticket to the Sweet 16 in Minneapolis. The Rams and Buffs have not faced one another since 2010 when CSU swept CU in Moby Arena.

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“I think this is such a unique atmosphere, it is such a unique event I do not think that is has happened ever since I have been here and I am from Colorado,” CU head coach Liz Kritza said. “This is something special, not only is it going to be well attended, well run, high level sub-regional, it has got to be one of the coolest ones out there that you have all these teams (DU,UNC,CSU,CU) performing at a high level. This is as prideful as it gets for the state.”

Moby Arena had 5,400 fans for the second match of the day with high expectations of a sold out crowd for Saturday. While CSU has a higher rank, significantly better record and homecourt advantage, CU has one advantage: its athleticism.

“The first thing is that we need to handle their physicality, they are playing different geometric angles, different heights than what we saw tonight,” CSU head coach Tom Hilbert said. “I think that we are going to be able to manage that. I think they have a couple of pretty good servers that we are going to have to manage.”

Hilbert also mentioned during Friday’s press conference that CU is player-for-player more athletic than the Rams. The Buffs are led by outside hitter Taylor Simpson who thrives on sharp cross court shots as well as high back row attacks.

Simpson had 16 kills against UNC on 41 attempts, though she is not the only star CU will bring to the court. Alexis Austin is another to look out for as she too took off against the Bears Friday with 12 kills on 20 swings.

“It gave me a lot of confidence going into tomorrow’s game whether we play DU or CSU. The setters did a great job tonight distributing the ball and we are ready for tomorrow,” Simpson said.

“We are going to have to figure out a way to counter it with defense, tempo and by by playing the game well,” Hilbert said.

While it hasn’t been a rivalry in the normal sense, CU and CSU is still the premier matchup in the state.

“Playing CU, I don’t know how much we need before to get pumped to play them because it is such a rivalry,” Reynolds said. “I think that this match gives us some confidence and we kind of get into the flow of this new season, the postseason.”
The Rams are 14-4 against the Buffs in Moby including 3-0 during the NCAA’s, with the winner of Saturday’s match facing No. 2 Texas next weekend. Tickets are available now online and can be purchased over the phone at 10 a.m.

“CSU and CU it is a big rivalry and we know that they get a huge crowd for volleyball, it is going to be a really electric atmosphere but it is nothing we haven’t been through. We have played at Oregon and they had a huge crowd and we have played at other places with huge crowds so I think that we are ready for tomorrow,” Simpson said.

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Collegian Sports Repoter Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @haleighhamblin.