Sept. 6, 2013
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MALIBU, Calif. — Colorado State dropped its first set of the season on Friday night but responded with three straight against Virginia to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2010 (18-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-19). The win came on the opening night of the Pepperdine Invitational at Firestone Fieldhouse.
A year ago, CSU swept its first three matches at home, but fell on the road in its next contest, and didn’t win its first road match until October. After winning all nine sets last weekend, the Rams made 12 total errors in Set 1 Friday night, falling for the first time, 25-18.
“The first set we didn't point score well at all," Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. "I told my team between sets 1 and 2, 'They think that's who we are, and we know we're better, so if we can play better, we're going to shock them.'"
That they did.
"After that, we played more solid and more composed," Hilbert said. "When it got down to the end of sets, they were making more errors and we weren't doing those things. It was about who made the fewest mistakes, and who got kills at critical times."
Senior Samantha Peters was the team-leader with a career-most 11 kills and four blocks. Freshman Michelle Lawrence added 10 — her second straight contest in double digits — as did junior Marlee Reynolds. Sophomore Adrianna Culbert finished with nine kills.
"Sam wasn't as much dynamic as she was smart," Hilbert said. "She's important to our team in so many ways."
After ties at each point from 1-1 to 10-10 in Set 2, the Rams recorded consecutive points to take a 12-10 advantage, and led for the remainder of the set, hitting .391.
The momentum really turned in Set 3, however. Trailing 3-1 early, CSU went on a 9-0 run to gain a 10-3 advantage. During the stretch, which included two Virginia timeouts, sophomore Kaitlind Bestgen had four service aces.
In all, Bestgen finished with five aces — just the third time since 2009 that a CSU player has accomplished that feat — and the team tallied 11, the most since Nov. 4, 2011 vs. Wyoming. On the flip side, the Rams had 12 service errors.
"Twelve is too many; I didn't feel like we were serving tough enough to have that many errors," Hilbert said. "I do like that we had 11 aces, though. Different people are stepping up serving-wise, and tonight it was Kaitlind Bestgen."
Tied at 10-10 in Set 4, CSU used a 3-0 run, forcing a Virginia timeout. The Cavs would get within one, but again the Rams responded with five of the next six to take an 18-13 lead, en route to a 25-19 victory.
CSU will now turn its attention to Saturday’s double-header, facing UC Santa Barbara (1:30 p.m. MT), followed by host Pepperdine (8:30 p.m. MT). The Rams and Gauchos haven’t met since 2000. In CSU’s match vs. Pepperdine last year, the Rams swept the No. 12 Waves. Fans can follow live stats for the day match, and stream video of the nightcap.
“It's a neutral-court win against an athletic team," Hilbert said. "I'm pleased, believe me. The difference now is that the two teams tomorrow will defend better, and we'll really have to get into longer rallies and win them in order to win tomorrow."