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By Nic Hallisey
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo.—Paced by senior Megan Plourde’s double-double of 13 kills and 13 blocks, Colorado State came back to beat New Mexico State Sunday afternoon, 3-1 (19-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-18), and win the 2012 Rams Volleyball Classic.
The tournament title is CSU’s second of the season, also winning the Rocky Mountain Invite during the season’s opening weekend. The Rams have now won six home tournaments in a row, dating back to 2009, and are 69-13 all-time in home regular-season tournaments under Head Coach Tom Hilbert.
“Tonight was really good,” Hilbert said. “Tonight is who I think we should be all the time. That’s a great team that we beat out there. I’m very happy that we got that win.”
CSU (7-3, 0-0 MW) dropped Set 1 after giving up a 13-1 run, but rebounded in Set 2 and played very efficiently for the remainder of the match.
Plourde was the force both on offense and defense. Despite not recording a block in the fourth set, her total ranks sixth in CSU history for a four-set match.
“Matt (Botsford) was making really good calls, and every time he was making a call, there was a high chance of them setting that player, so we were closing a lot of the blocks. Personally, I feel that this is the first game that I actually blocked at the same level as last year.”
Plourde, who led the nation in blocks as a junior, wasn’t the only one with a big game, however. Fellow senior Dana Cranston capped off a big weekend with a team-high 15 kills on .324 hitting. She also tallied a career-high-tying five blocks. Additionally, setter Deedra Foss posted 44 assists, four kills, nine digs and a career-high nine blocks, including the match’s final point. The three players were named to the all-tournament team, with Plourde taking home MVP honors.
“Meg was fantastic,” Hilbert said. “The thing we have to do is for Meg to be aggressive and focused every night. She’s a very good player. She’s getting it, and she had a great match. She does the right things at the right time.”
Additionally, Kelsey Snider had nine kills and two blocks, Brieon Paige posted eight kills and four blocks and Adrianna Culbert had five kills and 10 digs.
As a team, the Rams hit .290, and hit .299 on the weekend. CSU held the Aggies (6-3) to .156 hitting, including .094 in Set 3. The Rams also recorded a season-high 19.5 blocks.
“Tonight, I felt like we were blocking the way we were blocking last year, and maybe even a little better,” Hilbert said. “We played good all around, and there’s a stat that a lot of people overlook, but we had more than 19 points a game tonight (kills, blocks and service aces combined). That’s really good. That shows you that this match was a very well-played match, and especially considering that we lost the first set, 25-19. That is a good number. If we can do that, we are going to be really, really good over the long haul.”
The Rams got off to a hot start in the opening set, recording five kills and zero errors on their first 10 attempts. That led to an 8-4 lead and New Mexico State timeout. A 13-1 Aggies run, however, doomed the Rams, losing, 25-19.
“They had an eight-point run, and I burned both of my timeouts,” Hilbert said. “It was one great server going after a freshman. Really, what we did in the second set was tell our team, ‘Without that run, we actually won the first set.’ We shifted our rotation so that server wouldn’t be facing the same situation, and our team hung in there.”
The second set saw seven ties, the last being at 13-13, before CSU used a 3-0 run—thanks to back-to-back dumps from Foss to force a New Mexico State timeout. The Aggies pulled within one again, 18-17, before Culbert posted consecutive kills and the Rams closed the set on a 7-3 run to tie the match entering the break. The Rams hit. 471 in the set.
Set 3 was CSU’s from start to finish, as Plourde recorded two kills and a block on the first three points, and CSU ran out to a 4-0 lead and never trailed, winning 25-19. Midway through, freshman Jaime Colaizzi made an incredible play, diving to keep the ball alive after New Mexico State’s Nathalie Castellanos thought she had a kill. With the Aggies beginning to celebrate, the Rams kept playing, eventually leading to a Cranston and Plourde block to give CSU an 18-9 advantage.
The fourth set was tied at 10-10 before CSU took eight of 10 points—including three kills from Snider—to take an 18-12 lead, eventually winning, 25-18.
“I felt like this weekend I had complete faith in my teammates to compete at the end of games, whereas last weekend, everybody was scared something was going to go wrong,” Cranston said. “I think composure comes with that; our composure level has gone up since last weekend.
“Everyone was loose today, and we were just doing what we know how to do, and we’re not overthinking things. I think it just helps having that mindset.”
After seven matches in 11 days, CSU will play just one match this week, facing the defending national champion UCLA Bruins Saturday at 7 p.m. MT at Moby Arena. The Bruins rank No. 3 in the most recent AVCA poll.
Tickets for the match can be found here, or by calling 1-800-491-RAMS. The match is a White Out, and the first 750 fans in attendance will receive free white shirts courtesy of Wendy’s and Gary Hooley Heating & Air.
“We had a fabulous week of practice, spurred on by the fact that we knew we had to improve,” Hilbert said. “I told my team at the end of this match, ‘Let’s have another great week of practice even though we went 3-0 because it sure made us better.’”
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