Sept. 17, 2010
By Danny Mattie
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The No. 14-ranked Colorado State volleyball team suffered its second loss of the season on Friday night, dropping a five-set decision (25-21, 31-33, 25-23, 15-25, 11-15) to the No. 24 Long Beach State 49ers at Moby Arena.
In a matchup that, on paper, looked like a very evenly stacked contest between two heavyweights, the Rams and 49ers did not disappoint, delivering a thrilling match from start to finish for the 2,197 in attendance.
Unfortunately for CSU, it was Long Beach State who capitalized in some key situations to improve to 8-2. The loss drops CSU’s record to 9-2.
CSU came out in the opening stanza and staked to an early 6-2 advantage. LBSU stormed back to tie the score, 8-8, but the Rams never relinquished the lead, coming away with a 25-21 win in Set 1. However, a slow start to Set 2, and some critical lapses late in the set resulted in a 33-31 LBSU win, and kept CSU from gaining a stranglehold on the match with what could have been a 2-0 lead.
“Set 2 was critical,” said Head Coach Tom Hilbert. “You don’t want to act like it is at the time, but if we win that, this is a three-set win for us.”
LBSU responded to the Set 1 loss by jumping out to a 5-1 lead to begin the second. CSU steadily climbed back into the game, and took the lead – the first of six lead changes in the set – on back-to-back kills by Megan Plourde to make the score 20-18. Coming out of the Long Beach State timeout, the Rams capitalized on an attack error by LBSU Haliegh Hampton to stake to a 21-18 advantage, and after a kill by LBSU Michelle Osunbor, Hilbert and the Rams took a timeout leading 24-22.
“The timeout that I called, I had a reason for doing it, but it ended up being a bad decision because it gave them a momentum swing,” said Hilbert. “I wanted to set up some things and talk about their blockers, but I should have just let my team play.”
The Rams served set point three times, but were turned away by the 49ers, and despite an impressive seven-kill performance in the set by Plourde, the Rams’ middle blocker sent the final point wide and LBSU captured the 33-31 marathon in that pivotal second set.
“That was a very competitive set, and it was a good set.” said Hilbert of the closely contested Set 2. “And we came out and responded well in Set 3.”
The third set featured six more lead changes and 13 ties, but the Rams held strong to come away with the 25-23 wins.
“I thought we played pretty well through the early part of Set 4, and then we had a lapse,” said Hilbert. “We started to get tentative and make some uncharacteristic errors, and that seeped into the end of the fifth set as well.”
Those Rams’ errors allowed LBSU to turn an early 5-4 deficit into a 15-9 lead, and eventually land a big blow in the form of a 25-15 victory in the fourth set.
With all the momentum on their side, LBSU jumped ahead, 11-7, in the fifth set. CSU made a late run to tie it at 11-11, but the 49ers answered four straight points, including kills by Caitlin Ledoux and Janisa Johnson, coupled with attack errors by CSU’s Danielle Minch and Katelyn Steffan to close out the match with a 15-11 win.
“We will look at film on this, and this will be a good learning experience for us,” added Hilbert. “They are a good team, but they are a beatable team. This will be a learning experience for us.”
LBSU’s Hampton and Johnson led all players with 18 kills each on the night. Plourde, Minch and Jacque Davisson each finished with 14 kills for the Rams. Davisson notched a double-double with 15 digs. Plourde added six blocks. Steffan led all players with eight blocks (one solo) and chipped in with nine kills.
The loss snaps a streak of five consecutive victories over ranked opponents at Moby Arena for the Rams since a 3-0 victory over No. 13 Ohio State on Aug. 30, 2007. During that stretch, the Rams also hosted and defeated opponents from Florida (No. 8 on Sept. 13, 2008), BYU (No. 24 on Sept. 20, 2008), Arizona (No. 25 on Oct. 4, 2008), and Washington (No. 6 on Dec. 4, 2009).
The Rams now turn their focus to the start of Mountain West Conference play, heading to Utah for matchups with the BYU Cougars and Utah Utes next Friday and Sunday, respectively.