Sept. 7, 2013
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MALIBU, Calif. — The Colorado State volleyball team is off to its best start in more than a decade. After a 3-1 victory over Pepperdine Saturday night — which featured a dramatic final set — the Rams (6-0, 0-0 MW) were crowned the Pepperdine Invitational champions.
Junior setter Deedra Foss was named the tournament MVP, while teammates Michelle Lawrence and Samantha Peters were named to the all-tournament team.
“These kids have made believers out of me,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said afterward. “We still have some issues, but this team competes really well.”
That was seen on several instances on Saturday, first in the afternoon match, as CSU rallied from down 21-24 to take Set 1 vs. UC Santa Barbara, 28-26. More importantly, it was seen in the nightcap, which kept the Rams’ perfect record intact and helped CSU bring home another piece of hardware— CSU has won nine of its last 11 regular-season tournaments dating back to the 2009 season.
After a convincing Set-1 victory, in which CSU hit .412 and did not trail, the Rams had to battle for Set 2. A 10-1 Rams run midway through put the visitors on top, 17-7, and even though CSU would lead by double digits as late as 20-10, Pepperdine (4-2) came storming back, taking nine of 10 to bring the score to 21-19.
The Rams called timeout to regroup, and responded with four of the next five points to close the set and enter the break up 2-0.
“It did look like it would be an easier win once we got out to a 2-0 lead, but we know what type of team Pepperdine is,” Hilbert said about the Waves, who, like CSU, are receiving top-25 votes. “It was a competitive, competitive match, and we asserted our physicality on them. We were the better competitors tonight.”
After 11 ties and five lead changes in Set 3, Pepperdine emerged midway through the set and held off the Rams late, 25-23, to get on the board.
Set 4, though, was the difference maker for the Rams. After leading by up to five on several occasions, Pepperdine’s Taylor Racich served up two aces during a 7-0 run to put the Waves on top, 15-13. Several points later, and trailing 22-20, the Rams tied the score with back-to-back blocks. The two teams exchanged the next two points before Reynolds posted her 18th and 19th kills of the match, the latter coming on a highly entertaining and extremely competitive rally, which ended with the Rams celebrating another tournament title.
“Pepperdine is a great team, and a great program,” Hilbert said. “Taylor Racich is a great player with a phenomenal jump serve. I knew we had to make it through that rotation, and once we did, I figured we were going to win that set.”
CSU has now won six consecutive true road contests, dating back to October of last year. It is the longest road winning streak since the 2004 team won eight consecutive.
As a team, CSU hit .329, while holding Pepperdine to .195 hitting. Four players had 10-plus kills, with three of them hitting above .300. Junior Marlee Reynolds had a career-best 19 kills, the most by a CSU player since Brieon Paige had 20 at Fresno State on Oct. 11, 2012. Lawrence added 13, while Peters and Adrianna Culbert tallied 10.
On the defensive side, Peters and Kelsey Snider each had six blocks — tying career highs — and the Rams as a team had 14.0 total blocks, the most since last October. Libero Jaime Colaizzi added 23 digs, a career high and also the most since Izzy Gaulia had 25 at Fresno State on Oct. 11, 2012.
Foss, the weekend MVP, had 53 assists, in addition to 10 digs, four blocks an ace and a kill. On the weekend. She averaged 16.00 assists per set, 3.11 digs, 1.00 kills, 0.56 aces and 0.67 blocks, including two double-doubles.
“A lot of new talent is emerging on our team, and players are playing much better than they were a few weeks ago,” Hilbert said. “We played some close games, and our team was able to fight through all of them.”
The Rams will return to Colorado on Sunday, but will travel to DU on Tuesday (7 p.m. MT) before returning to Moby Arena (Wednesday vs. Missouri State at 7 p.m. MT). Tickets for Wednesday's match can be purchased online.