The ninth-ranked Colorado State volleyball team closed the regular season with a 3-0 sweep vs. UNLV to improve to 28-1. After, the team was presented the 2013 Mountain West championship trophy. [Photo by Dan Byers]
No. 10 CSU volleyball swept Nevada to earn Head Coach Tom Hilbert his 600th career victory - 11/9/13 [Photos by Tim O'Hara]
The Colorado State women's volleyball program has become synonymous with consistent winning under the guidance and tutelage of Head Coach Tom Hilbert, who in 2013 begins his 17th season with the Rams and his 25th overall as a collegiate head coach.
With eight Mountain West Coach of the Year awards to his credit in the league's 14-year existence, it is clear why Hilbert's program has risen to the top of the MW and has become a stalwart on the national stage as a perennial top-25 team.
Under Hilbert, who was inducted into the CSU Athletics Hall of Fame as the Hall of Honor recipient in 2006, the Rams have developed into one of the top programs in the nation, qualifying for the NCAA tournament all 16 seasons. Overall, CSU has played in 18 straight tournaments, which ranks seventh nationally among active streaks entering the 2013 season. The stretch also includes five Sweet 16 appearances and 13 first-round wins.
Hilbert ranks 10th among active Division I head coaches (15th all-time) in winning percentage (.767), and 19th in total wins (577). Of those ranked in the top 20, Hilbert has coached the fewest total matches. Through 2012, he owns a career record of 577-176. Just seven active coaches have recorded more than 500 victories while holding a winning percentage above .750, with Hilbert being one of them.
On Nov. 4, 2010, he became the winningest coach in any sport in CSU history, earning a victory over UNLV, his 353rd in Fort Collins. The win surpassed former men's basketball coach Jim Williams' mark of 352 victories. A year prior, Hilbert eclipsed the 500-win mark for his career. At the time, he was one of just two active coaches with more than 500 victories and fewer than 22 years of head coaching experience. Also in 2009, the veteran coach earned his 300th career win at CSU, moving ahead of his predecessor, Rich Feller, who won 299 matches from 1983-96.
The Rams will seek their fifth consecutive MW championship in 2013, earning trophies in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Just three other teams nationally have currently won their respective conference title in at least four consecutive seasons. In all, Hilbert has orchestrated 10 regular-season MW titles in 14 years, also adding five conference tournament titles in nine opportunities. The 15 total titles is more than all other MW teams -- past and present -- combined. CSU is 179-32 in MW action under Hilbert, never finishing lower than third. What's more, in 1998, CSU's final season in the WAC, the Rams won the Mountain Division. Of those who have played four seasons at CSU under Hilbert, every single one has won at least two conference titles, with all but three winning three or more.
While at CSU, Hilbert has coached nine players who have earned AVCA All-America selections, and four to Volleyball Magazine nods. Twenty-one additional players under Hilbert have been named All-America honorable mentions by either the AVCA or Volleyball Magazine. Hilbert's players have also earned nine MW Player-of-the-Year trophies in the league's 14-year history, and a total of 64 all-conference selections.
In 2011, when senior Katelyn Steffan and junior Megan Plourde were both named to the AVCA All-America third team, it marked the third time in program history that multiple players were selected in the same season. During 2011, Hilbert was also named the AVCA West Region Coach of the Year, his third regional honor and first since taking over the Rams in 1997. He was recognized at the NCAA Final Four in San Antonio, Texas. Additionally, in 24 years as a head coach, he has earned 13 conference coach-of-the-year awards.
Hilbert has led his teams to 20 or more wins every season since 1992, a span of 21 straight seasons, including the final five at Idaho and first 16 at Colorado State. The 1999 Rams set the school's single-season record for winning percentage after going 30-3 (.909).
He has also turned CSU's home court, Moby Arena, into one of the most hostile in the nation, compiling a 226-28 (.890) all-time home record. The Rams are 25-11 at Moby against ranked opponents, most recently defeating No. 12 Pepperdine (2012) and No. 5 Nebraska (2011). Hilbert has 40 overall wins against ranked teams, including No. 1 UCLA in 2000.
With big wins come big crowds. The CSU faithful continuously rank in the top 15 nationally for annual attendance figures, even breaking into the top 10 on several occasions. In 2011, a MW record 6,750 fans witnessed the Rams come from behind to defeat No. 5 Nebraska. Just two schools had larger single-match crowds in 2011.
Between Sept. 18, 1998 and Nov. 18, 2000, CSU rattled off 44 consecutive home wins, a Moby Arena record. More recently, CSU has strung together streaks of 21 (2007-08) and 16 (2011-12). The Rams haven't lost a home match against a current member of the MW since Nov. 4, 2005, a span of 45 straight contests entering the 2013 season.
CSU has been ranked in the AVCA top-25 poll more frequently than all but 14 Division I teams, with many of those rankings coming under Hilbert. In fact, Hilbert led CSU to its highest-ever ranking, No. 3 in October 2000. On two occasions (2000, 2001), CSU has finished the year ranked in the top 10, and between Sept. 1, 1999 and Sept. 23, 2002, CSU was ranked 51 consecutive weeks.
Away from the court, Hilbert's teams have set the tone academically. During his tenure, two players have earned Academic All-America honors -- Angela Knopf in 2000 and 2001 and Dana Cranston in 2012. Additionally, the Rams have earned 76 academic all-conference nods under Hilbert's guidance, including 34 over the past four seasons.
Before coming to CSU, Hilbert accumulated a 174-72 (.707) record at Idaho -- which remains the most wins by a coach in Idaho history. He helped the Vandals to the Eastern Division title in 1996 (their first season in the Big West), and in the Big Sky, his teams won either the regular season or the tournament championship each year from 1992-95. In each of those seasons, Hilbert's Vandals played in the NCAA tournament -- posting first-round wins in 1993 and 1994 -- and Hilbert was named the Big Sky Coach of the Year.
In his first season in Moscow, Idaho went 15-14, a drastic improvement from the Vandals' combined 16-41 mark from the two prior seasons. Just five years later, in 1994, Idaho recorded a program-record 31 victories (31-3).
Hilbert coached the Big Sky's first All-American in Mindy Rice. He also guided Idaho to its first national ranking, the first-ever national ranking by a Big Sky team. In addition to Rice, Hilbert tutored nine AVCA All-Region selections, four Big Sky MVPs and 20 all-conference recipients.
Prior to Idaho, Hilbert spent five seasons as an assistant at his alma mater, Oklahoma, from 1984-88. The Sooners went 115-56 (.673) in Hilbert's five seasons in Norman, including two trips to the NCAA tournament and an appearance in the Elite Eight (1988).
Away from the college game, Hilbert has coached several international trips through Bring It Promotions, including winning the Global Challenge in 2009 in Croatia and coaching a USA Select Team in Argentina in 2005.
A native of Norman, Okla., Hilbert earned his bachelor's degree in business administration and marketing in 1984, and his master's in business administration in 1989, both from OU. In 1993, he received a second master's degree, in sports and recreation management from Idaho.
Hilbert has resided in Fort Collins for 16 years with his daughter, Myles, who will turn 13 in September.