Aug. 27, 2011
Athletic Media Relations
Fayetteville, Ark.—The Colorado State volleyball program couldn’t have started off the 2011 season any better, sweeping its way through the Arkansas Invitational after a 3-0 win over McNeese State on Saturday evening at Barnhill Arena.
Except for the first 12 points of the match—where CSU trailed, 5-7, after giving up points on five unforced errors—the Rams (3-0) were dominant from start to finish against the Cowgirls (0-2), winning by scores of 25-17, 25-14 and 25-16.
“I keep saying this,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said, “but our team continues to play with so much maturity. They gave so few points away and made the other teams have to work very hard to score. If you couple that with our ability to point-score, which came from tough serving and blocking, we were able to score consistently.”
With the win, CSU begins the season 3-0 for the third time in the past four years. It is the first time since 1997, however, that the Rams have opened the season with three consecutive sweeps.
“It feels great,” said junior Brieon Paige. “I feel like we definitely played as a team these last couple of games. We came out with the wins, and that will help boost us the rest of the season.”
Senior opposite hitter Katelyn Steffan was named tournament MVP, while juniors Dana Cranston, Izzy Gaulia and Megan Plourde were named to the all-tournament team.
In all three matches the offense has been on full display, with the Rams hitting .410 in the final match of the tournament, led by .500 in the final stanza.
“It’s obviously not going to be that way every weekend—you just can’t keep that up—but this weekend it was very, very good,” Hilbert said. “And I thought, as a result, Kate (Steffan) and Dana (Cranston) grew as players, and I really liked what both of them did. Kate was good all weekend, and Dana, I thought had a turnaround today against Middle Tennessee, and did really nice things.”
CSU had a season-high 45 kills on the night, and outblocked McNeese State 10 to zero. Steffan reached double digits in kills for the third consecutive match, and juniors Paige and Cranston added 10 and nine, respectively. Paige hit .643 from the floor, and sophomore Tori Brummett, making her first appearance of the season, and sophomore Samantha Peters, were both effective with a combined nine kills and zero errors.
Paige also was in on four blocks, while Cranston was part of five, including three solo blocks. Gaulia, the libero, was dominant on the weekend, as well, recording 37 digs in three matches.
“I try to do whatever I can to help the team,” Paige said. “I was just doing my job and really connecting with the setter (Deedra Foss). That’s what we’ve been working on a lot.”
The success early in sets allowed Hilbert to use different rotations, including redshirt freshmen Marlee Reynolds and Katie Rutherford for the first time this season, and true freshman Carlie Foust seeing significant playing time for the first time in her career. Brummett started in place of Plourde, who rested after coming into the season with a mild wrist sprain.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Hilbert said on the performance by the reserves. “Those kids are good for us in practice. We have a lot of depth on this team. It doesn’t surprise me at all, because our bench players are fighting for positions right now, and they’re very close.”
The win will give the Rams confidence heading into Monday’s match at No. 16 Oklahoma.
“We have some confidence,” Hilbert said. “We know we can go into someone else’s gym and play well, so we’re planning on going into Norman and trying to play the same mistake-free volleyball. I think Oklahoma’s going to be better than the three teams we saw this weekend, and I’m excited to mix up against a nationally ranked opponent.”
Other tournament notes: In the nightcap, Arkansas beat Middle Tennessee, 3-0, to take second place in the tournament.