FORT COLLINS, Colo.—The Colorado State Rams have found their element when playing at Moby Arena. CSU (5-3) improved to 5-0 on the season in front of its home crowd, and extended its home winning streak to 15 matches—fifth-longest in program history—with a 3-0 sweep over No. 12 Pepperdine Friday night (25-22, 25-23, 25-21).
“If you would have told me that we were going to sweep Pepperdine, I never would have believed that,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. “But I’m glad we did.”
After a three-match losing streak last weekend, CSU has responded with big home wins over Oklahoma (receiving votes at the time) and Pepperdine (4-2). The win is CSU’s first sweep against a top-15 opponent since beating No. 8 Florida in straight sets on Sept. 13, 2008.
Also with the win, CSU has now won seven of its last eight against ranked teams at Moby Arena.
“Tonight certainly qualifies as a signature win for the season, but I would like to get two more wins this weekend,” Hilbert said. “I think we can do it. That would be a really nice way to go into the UCLA match.”
CSU took Set 1 behind a combined 11 kills and .435 hitting from seniors Dana Cranston and Megan Plourde. The Rams fell behind early, 1-2, but didn’t trail the remainder of the set, despite six ties and never leading by more than five points. Leading by just one, 19-18, CSU called a timeout and took three of the next four points to provide some separation. Cranston then closed the set with a big kill to gain the early momentum.
“Dana was really hitting high and hitting well,” Hilbert said. “I’m trying to think of another high-quality match that she has played as well in as this one. I thought she was great.”
Cranston finished the night with a team-high 13 kills on .387 hitting.
Set 2 was packed with entertainment, seeing 15 ties and six lead changes. Again, the Rams were able to pull away when they needed to, turning a 16-16 tie into a 20-17 lead, capped by a Kelsey Snider kill. Snider finished the night with nine kills and three blocks.
The Rams then received kills from Cranston, Culbert and Foss to seal the Set-2 win, 25-21.
“We stayed composed and finished sets,” senior libero Izzy Gaulia said. “Even when we were losing at times—we sometimes tend to freak out a little bit—but I think this match we stayed more composed than we have ever done this year.”
Looking for a sweep, CSU was well on its way with a 10-6 advantage midway through. However, a 6-0 Pepperdine run, sandwiched between a CSU timeout, gave the Waves their first lead since 2-1. CSU wouldn’t trail for long, though. The Rams and Waves would be tied at 12, 13, 14 and 16 before CSU took the lead for good.
In the set, CSU recorded just one error and hit .448.
“That was a really good match for us,” Hilbert said. “We grew a lot today. In the third game we hit .448 and they hit .364. That’s a battle, and we came out on top.”
Plourde had 10 kills on .421 hitting, while Brieon Paige had a team-high five blocks. As a team, CSU hit .306 behind setter Deedra Foss’ 35 assists.
Pepperdine recorded more kills than CSU (47-41), but the Rams outhit the Waves (.306-.266) and outblocked (8.5-5.0) the opposition. CSU also recorded five service aces.
“We didn’t make hitting errors and we didn’t make serving errors,” Hilbert said. “We served the ball tougher than they did. We were really a good serving team and caused them a lot of problems and created hitting-error situations for their attacks.”
The Rams will continue the Rams Volleyball Classic Saturday against Florida International at 1 p.m. MT. Pepperdine plays New Mexico State at 11 a.m., while the Panthers and Aggies clash at 5 p.m. to close out the day. Earlier on Friday, New Mexico State swept FIU.