FORT COLLINS, Colo.—Riding a three-match losing streak, the 24th-ranked Colorado State Rams got just what they needed Sunday afternoon in a four-set victory over the Oklahoma Sooners (25-23, 21-25, 25-19, 25-16).
“It feels good to be home after a long weekend,” said setter Deedra Foss. “It’s always good to play in front of a great home crowd, and hopefully that gets us going in the right direction again.”
CSU (4-3) has now won 13 consecutive home matches dating back to last season. With a win Friday vs. Pepperdine, it will tie the fifth-longest streak in program history.
Trailing 7-12 in the opening set, Hilbert used his first timeout. CSU then went on a 6-1 run to knot the score at 13-13. The Rams fell behind again, 17-20, causing Hilbert to use his second timeout. This time coming out of the timeout, the Rams went on a 7-1 run to take its first lead of the match, 21-20. In all, CSU ended the frame with nine of 11 points to come back and win, 25-23.
The second set saw six ties, but a late push by the Sooners allowed just enough separation to take the 25-21 win. With CSU trialing by just one, 13-14, Oklahoma (5-2) took eight of 10 points to widen the gap, and despite a 3-0 Rams run while facing set point, the Sooners were able to finish it out.
After opening the season with sweeps in each of its first three matches, CSU has now gone into the locker room at the intermission tied 1-1 the last four matches. While in the previous three—all losses—CSU dropped the crucial third set, the Rams came out on fire in Set 3, never trailing and rolling to a 25-19 victory.
“The first two sets were similar to the sets we were playing the past few days,” Hilbert said. “After that, though, we looked pretty good, and it was a much better effort by us.”
The Rams didn’t trail in Set 4 either, jumping out to a 9-1 lead behind the serving of Michelle Smith and Izzy Gaulia and cruising toward victory, 25-16. Gaulia paced the Rams in serving all day, going on four-point runs or more three different times.
“I thought Izzy served the ball extremely well today,” Hilbert said. “As a whole, the match wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but we did enough to win against a good team.”
The win was important in order to end the team’s three-match losing streak, but more important than winning was the improvement from earlier this weekend.
“How we played today, not even the fact that we got the win, but the improvement in our play helps,” senior Dana Cranston said. “I feel like we had our feet under us a little bit more today.”
Cranston—who has 10 or more kills in five of the last six matches—led CSU with a career-high 19 kills. It is the most kills by a CSU player since Katelyn Steffan recorded 28 vs. Wyoming on Oct. 8, 2011. In addition to the kills tally, she posted two service aces, four blocks and a career-best 23.5 points.
As a team, the Rams registered 15 total blocks, a season high. Seven different players posted at least one block, led by Plourde’s season high of 11. Her final block of the day was the 500th of her career, becoming just the third Ram ever to reach that milestone. She also moved into 10th place in Mountain West history for total career blocks.
“The blocking was the difference in Set 1, Set 3 and Set 4,” Hilbert said.
Also contributing offensively was Kelsey Snider (11 kills) and Brieon Paige (nine kills). Three other players—Adrianna Culbert, Plourde and Foss—had five or more kills. Foss also posted her second double-double of the weekend (39 assists, 10 digs). Smith, who made her first start of the season, tallied 11 digs, while Gaulia had 21 and a service ace.
After a difficult stretch of four matches in four days—all against teams who are or have been ranked or receiving votes in the AVCA top-25 poll this season—CSU will have four days to prepare for this weekend’s Rams Volleyball Classic, presented by PVH. The four-team tournament runs from Friday-Sunday at Moby Arena, and includes CSU, No. 13 Pepperdine, Florida International and New Mexico State.
“As tough as this past weekend was, I think we learned a lot of things that we needed to that we might not have learned if we would have played in a tournament like the first weekend,” Cranston said. “I’m glad that we went through it, and I think we’re better today because of it.”