“Before the third set, I said, ‘This set can be in our favor right now; let’s keep it that way,’” senior Dana Cranston recalled. “I think everyone knew without saying it. We just wanted to get back out there and play the next game.”
With Izzy Gaulia serving, CSU (8-5, 1-1 MW) jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the third set and never looked back, winning, 25-15. After Nevada (4-11, 1-1 MW) closed the gap to two, 8-10, CSU called timeout. Kelsey Snider got a kill on the next point, and with Jaime Colaizzi behind the line, the Rams took the four points after to widen their lead to 15-8. CSU led by at least six the remainder of the way, finishing with a set-high 10-point lead.
The win extends CSU’s conference home-opening winning streak to 16 matches, dating back to 1997.
“I was pleased with the performance today,” said Head Coach Tom Hilbert. “We hit with authority, and defensively, I thought we played well. We serve received the ball really well and we served really well.”
Similar to Set 3, CSU did not trail in the opening set, winning 25-14. The Rams gained the early lead, 6-1, behind three kills from Cranston. The senior had a match-high 14 kills on the night, recording just one error and hitting a season-best .565. As a team, CSU hit .500 in the opening set (18-1-34), and .362 on the night. The hitting percentage was a season high for the team.
The Rams also posted just nine attack errors—six coming in the final set—which is the lowest since recording eight at Boise State on Oct. 20, 2011.
“I think that the first set was really good because we were not stopping Tessa Lea’ea and Janelle Batista—Nevada got 13 kills and I think 10 of them came from those two players—but we had 18 kills and only one error and no service errors, so that is scoring a lot. I think that was a really good performance from our team when Nevada was playing pretty decently.”
In the opening set, senior Megan Plourde paced the team with six kills on .750 hitting, including four kills in a row midway through.
“Meg has the numbers she has for a reason,” Hilbert said. “It’s an instinctive thing for her, and she is very good at blocking; she is exceptional. I’d love to take credit for it, but I can’t. For whatever reason, she is technically good. We sub her in the middle, and it changes the game.”
The Wolf Pack jumped out to an early 5-4 lead in Set 2 before Plourde knotted the score up with her seventh kill of the match. The senior middle blocker would finish with 11, also posting just one error and hitting .500.
Plourde’s kill sparked a 7-0 run, which gave the Rams a deep lead and forced Nevada to take its first timeout of the set. During the beginning of the run, junior Michelle Smith checked in to serve, recording a service ace on her first serve. In the match, Smith was extremely effective from behind the line, posting 10 points on her 13 total serves.
The Rams, who rank 15th nationally in blocks per set, didn’t earn their first block until the 12th point of the second set, but still finished with eight on the night, compared to Nevada’s four. While the Rams hit a season high, the Wolf Pack struggled, posting negative numbers in Set 2, and hitting .000 in the third set to finish with a .062 hitting percentage. CSU also did not allow a service ace, even though Nevada has two players in the top five in the conference in aces.
Setter Deedra Foss had 36 assists, including 15 in the first set, and Gaulia had 13 digs. Freshman Adrianna Culbert also had a double-digit dig total (10) and Colaizzi played well defensively and from the service line.
“Defensively, I thought we played well,” Hilbert said. “Jaime Colaizzi played great tonight, and she got a lot of action back there.”
CSU will continue conference play Saturday against San Diego State. The Rams have won 21 straight overall matches against the Aztecs, and haven’t lost to them at home since 1996. Still, though, Hilbert knows how good the Aztecs can be. San Diego State was picked to finish second in the league—behind only CSU—in the conference’s preseason poll, and earlier this year was receiving votes after a win over then-No. 17 California.
“Saturday’s match will take more effort,” Hilbert said. “It will be closer. We won’t get as many giveaway points, and San Diego State has more weapons. This is a nice way to get back at home and get comfortable.”
For tickets to Saturday’s match, click here. Tickets can also be purchased over the phone at 1-800-491-RAMS, in person at the McGraw Athletic Center or at local King Soopers and City Market locations.