Aug. 28, 2010
By Danny Mattie
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – A record-breaking crowd of 6,333 was on hand Friday night to watch the No. 17 Colorado State program defeat the Duke Blue Devils, 3-1, to open the 2010 season.
The crowd, which came out in full force as part of a “White Out” promotion that included free student T-shirts, bested the program’s 22-year-old attendance mark of 6,260 vs. BYU in 1988. It also established a new Mountain West Conference home-match record, which the Rams held previously at 5,486 fans for a 2001 match, also vs. BYU.
And despite some unforeseen side effects of a sea of white filling the stands, the Rams (1-0) impressed against the Blue Devils (0-1), who came to Moby as the preseason co-favorite (with Florida State) to win the 2010 ACC title, and a vote-getter in the AVCA National Coaches poll
“What a fantastic environment for an opening match,” said Head Coach Tom Hilbert. “The interesting thing was that we didn’t really think that with the ‘White Out’ it would impair the ability to track the ball, which is about 70 percent white. But, all-in-all, I thought we played pretty well.”
The Rams took control midway through the first set after a neck-and-neck start that saw the Blue Devils pull to within 8-7 early in the contest.
“It was a great volleyball match,” added Hilbert. “In the first set, Duke was with us before a long point run that separated us. They got a little down on themselves, but came back and fought like crazy in Set 2.”
That Rams run was ignited by senior outside Hitter Jacque Davisson who posted a pair of solo blocks and served six consecutive points as part of a stretch that saw CSU extend a 10-7 advantage to a 22-12 stranglehold on the opening stanza.
But, like all good teams, the Blue Devils bounced back to push CSU, 26-24, in Set 2, before capturing a third-set victory, 26-24, over the Rams. CSU closed the match with a 25-21 victory in the fourth.
Those close sets against a top-tier opponent are something that Hilbert hopes will help his team throughout the season.
“Set 2 we had to win at the very end, just like Set 4; Set 3 we lost at the end,” said Hilbert. “I think that we have to be the kind of team that is comfortable in close contests in end-game situations, so I’m very pleased that we played three of them tonight. I think we did some good things.”
Added Hilbert: “Duke is excellent. I think they can win the ACC and are going to be a great team, an NCAA tournament team, so I think this is a very big win for us.”
Davisson, who rounded out a double-double with 10 digs, tied sophomore Megan Plourde for match-high honors with 14 kills. But it was classmates Danielle Minch and (12 kills) and Audrey Hemmings (match-high 14 digs), who helped Davisson lead the Rams to their ninth season-opening win in 14 years under Hilbert.
“Jacque hit extremely well and Dani was good at critical times, like the end of the fourth set,” said Hilbert. “Then we had some good defense and good passing from Audrey. We had really nice senior performances tonight.”
Junior setter Evan Sanders tallied a match-high 46 assists, helping the Rams to a .246 team hitting percentage. Duke hit .176 with 51 kills and 27 errors for the match.
Claire Smalzer and Becci Burling led Duke with 13 and 12 kills, respectively.
Neither team could establish an edge in blocking, as both squads finished with 11 team blocks on the night.
Junior Katelyn Steffan chipped in with eight kill and a pair of service aces for the Rams. Brieon Paige added five kills, while Sanders and sophomore Dana Cranston each added three.
Colorado State looks ahead now to 2009 Southern Conference champs, Furman. The Rams and Paladins (0-1) are set to meet at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Moby Arena in each team’s second match of the Coors Rocky Mountain Challenge. Furman lost, 3-0, at Colorado Friday night.
The Rams and rival CU play the final match of the challenge Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Moby Arena, kicking off the week leading up to the Cinch Jeans Rocky Mountain Showdown between the schools’ football programs on Saturday at INVESCO Field at Mile High.