Aug. 29, 2011
Athletic Media Relations
NORMAN, OKLA.—Head Coach Tom Hilbert has spent countless hours in the McCasland Field House, home of the Oklahoma Sooners. Growing up in Norman, he got his bachelor’s degree and began his coaching career at OU. But for the first time since taking lead of Colorado State in 1997, Hilbert returned to Norman to face his old team.
No. 15 CSU (3-1) was good Monday, but the No. 17 Sooners (4-0) were better, as CSU dropped its first set and first match of the season, 3-0 (25-21, 25-15, 25-23)
“Oklahoma is very seasoned,” Hilbert said. “They’re a better team than us, there’s no doubt about it.”
No matter where CSU’s attackers hit the ball, or with how much power, Sooner defenders were able to track it down.
“They force you into long rallies,” Hilbert said, “and will win those rallies, even with a kill or bock, because they’re all very mature. They’re seniors and they’re all very collected and aware of what’s going on.”
Meanwhile, for the Sooners, everything seemed go their way—whether it be poor serves that hit the net and fell onto CSU’s side for aces or hard hits by CSU’s attackers that were handled cleanly.
The Rams and Sooners were virtually even in the first match, which featured 14 ties, but CSU was always one step behind. The Rams were never able to get into a rhythm to rattle off consecutive points, and while CSU led in several instances, it never led by more than a single point.
“It would have made a huge difference (to win the first set), “Hilbert said. “It would have changed the entire complexity of the match. If you can win the first set on the road, it gives you a psychological cushion.
“The biggest disappointment in this match was that I thought we had a momentum in Game 1, and we blew it at 20-20. We can’t do that.”
The Rams had knotted the score once again after a Carlee Roethlisberger attack error, but gave up five of the final six points to drop the set.
The Rams were outplayed in the second set, making nine errors. Trailing by one, 6-5, the Rams made four errors and gave up an OU ace to widen the deficit, 12-6, and never got back into it.
CSU got its first rally going to begin the third set, controlling the first three points, but the Sooners quickly recomposed and tied it up shortly after. Still, the final set was the Rams’ best, hitting .303, and recording 14 kills and 5.5 blocks.
“We served the ball well,” Hilbert said, “and we came back after being awful in the second game. We played pretty well in the third game, and played good enough to win, but they were better.”
Despite the loss, the Rams took plenty away from Monday night.
“We have to learn from this,” Hilbert said. “That’s why we play these games. We got to see and experience a very fast offense. When we go back and watch film, we’ll see that we just missed little things.
“I told the team after, ‘We got beat by a very good team, but they’re not an unbeatable team.’ We need to learn from it and believe that, if we improve in certain areas and play them again in the NCAA tournament, we can beat them, and I think that’s true.”
CSU will regroup before hosting No. 5 Nebraska in the team’s home opener on Friday at 7 p.m. MT. Tickets are still available, but it is highly encouraged to buy in advance to avoid long lines the night of the match. Tickets can be purchased online at www.CSURams.com, over the phone at 1-877-491-RAMS, in person at the McGraw Athletic Center or at any local King Soopers or City Market location.
Sea of green: Between Hilbert’s homecoming and other family and friends in attendance, there was a noticeably large crowd in green Monday night.
“That was really neat,” Hilbert said. “There were a lot of friends here, a lot of people I played with and got coached by and coached with. My parents and brother were here, so it was neat. I wish it was a different result, but it was good for them to see what I do and how the program at CSU has evolved, because they never see it.”
Hilbert estimated around 20 friends and family were in attendance to see him Monday, not including Oklahoma fans who greeted him postmatch who watched him coach at OU in the 1980s.
Oklahoma City Memorial: During Sunday’s travel day, the Rams stopped in Oklahoma City to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial, a museum remembering the Oklahoma City Bombing.