Sept. 21, 2013
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By Craig Buchanan
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - By defeating Texas A&M in three sets on Saturday night (25-11, 25-16, 25-20), the No. 22 Colorado State Rams (10-0, 1-0 MW) did something that had only been done once before in the program's storied history: finish its non-conference schedule undefeated.
Colorado State continued to showcase its excellence at Moby Arena, not dropping a set at home for the sixth straight match, and is now riding a 14-match home winning streak. Additionally, the Rams are now one of just six teams in the entire nation to still boast an undefeated record, and are tied for the third-best start in school history.
"This team continues to amaze me," Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. "I know that there are talented players on the team, but the maturity in which they are playing right now, considering the experience level of this team, is super impressive."
While it was the first time that CSU did not have a single attacker register double-digit kills in a match this year, the Rams' high-flying offense was still on full display with five different players recording at least seven kills.
Junior outside hitter Marlee Reynolds and freshman outside hitter Michelle Lawrence led the way for CSU with nine kills apiece, while sophomore right-side attacker Adrianna Culbert, senior middle blocker Samantha Peters and junior middle blocker Kelsey Snider each had seven kills.
"I think it's been great playing with these girls," Peters said. "We can rely on everyone, and it's cool to be part of a tradition and a legacy with these girls because they are great people and great players."
The match between CSU and Texas A&M featured two of the premier offenses in the nation, but it was the defense from the Rams that turned out to be the story of the match as they were able to neutralize the Aggies.
Culbert paced CSU with a career-high 17 digs while sophomore libero Jaime Colaizzi added 11 for a Rams team that finished with 52 digs in the match. Freshman Cassidy Denny posted nine digs while sophomore Kaitlind Bestgen added eight.
With the stellar play in the back, CSU saved many points in a match that featured incredible long rally after rally. The great defensive plays swung the tide in the favor of the Rams.
At the net, CSU was just as efficient, out-blocking Texas A&M, 11.5-5.0. Peters had six blocks to lead the way for CSU while junior setter Deedra Foss registered five blocks. Snider and Reynolds each posted four.
The Aggies came into the match No. 11 in the nation with 14.79 kills per set, but could only manage 28 kills against the Rams (9.33 per set). Texas A&M seemed to be bothered all night by the great defensive play from CSU and had 21 attack errors while hitting just .061 for the match. The 28 kills were a season-low for Texas A&M, whose previous low was 38.
Donning their orange jerseys to celebrate their Colorado A&M heritage and original school colors of pumpkin and alfalfa, the Rams jumped on Texas A&M from the get-go with a 6-1 start in Set 1 to force a quick timeout. The Aggies did not respond as the Rams used a 6-0 run to give the team a 14-3 lead en route to a 25-11 victory, the second-largest set victory of the season.
In the second set, things started to tighten up as neither team could pull away early on. Leading 14-13, CSU closed the set on an 11-3 run to win the set, 25-16.
Set 3 continued with the same pattern as it featured 10 ties and four lead changes. Once again, though, the Rams exhibited what has been the identity for this team, and closed the set taking seven of the final eight points to win, 25-20.
"This was just like the Wyoming match; just keep it close and win at the end," Hilbert said. "You can't panic when those things happen, and tonight we didn't panic. We just kept it close and won at the end. That's what these guys are doing; they're doing it in every close set they play."
CSU will now turn its attention entirely toward its conference schedule, where it will look to defend its title and win a fifth consecutive Mountain West championship. The Rams will travel south on Thursday to Colorado Springs to take on in-state rival Air Force. The match is slated to begin at 6 p.m. MT.
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