Sept. 28, 2013
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – No. 19 Colorado State was one point away from a three-set sweep on Saturday — twice — but New Mexico battled back to win sets 3 and 4, and took a three-point lead late in Set 5 before the Rams came from behind to defeat the Lobos (27-25, 25-18, 25-27, 16-25, 15-13) and remain undefeated on the season (12-0, 3-0 MW). CSU is one of six undefeated teams in the country.
“New Mexico is very difficult,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. “We found a way to win, and I’m proud of our team for that.”
Trailing 11-8 in the deciding set, Marlee Reynolds picked up her 12th and final kill to bring the score to within two, 11-9. That’s when two of CSU’s true freshmen stepped up. With Cassidy Denny serving, CSU took the next three points — including two kills on New Mexico overpasses by Michelle Lawrence — to take a 12-11 lead, the team’s first since 1-0.
The Rams then scored two of the next three points to set up match point. Coming out of a New Mexico timeout, CSU sealed the deal two plays later with a Kelsey Snider kill. The junior had a career-most 16 in the match.
“We served well in the fifth set and had some critical blocks and points,” Hilbert said. “In the fifth game, that’s what you have to do. We sort of scrapped away until we found a way to win.”
About Snider’s performance, Hilbert said: “She was playing with great confidence and playing very, very athletically. That makes a huge difference.”
With the win, CSU extended its overall winning streak to 12 matches, ninth-most in the program’s storied history. The 12-0 start to the season is CSU’s third-best ever. Additionally, the Rams have now won nine consecutive true road matches, the most since 2003. The win snapped New Mexico’s 10-match winning streak and perfect record at home (11-2, 2-1 MW).
Three of the sets were extremely tight, including the opening frame, in which CSU didn’t take its first lead until 10-9. Trailing late, 21-17, CSU battled back to bring the score to within two, 24-22. The Rams fought off two set points, and after a New Mexico timeout, took three of the final four to win, 27-25. CSU finished the set on runs of 10-4 and 5-1. In the second set, CSU led by as many as seven, but the Lobos cut the deficit to two, 16-14, before CSU took six of the next seven points.
While the Rams were confident entering intermission, in the backs of their minds was the team’s most recent trip to Albuquerque, in which CSU won the first two sets, but dropped the next three to lose in five. At one point it looked as if history would repeat itself before CSU came from behind and closed the door.
“Last year they dominated the last three games,” Hilbert said. “In my opinion, this should have been a 3-0 win for us. They made some lineup changes, and we had some critical plays that we didn’t make at the end of the third set.”
Closing sets late has become a pleasant trend for the Rams, winning 16 of the 18 sets this year decided by five points or fewer.
In addition to Snider, who also led CSU with five blocks, the Rams saw offensive production from Adrianna Culbert, Lawrence and Reynolds, who each had 12 kills. Senior Samantha Peters had nine kills and four blocks. Junior Deedra Foss had a season-best 57 assists, in addition to four kills, five digs, three blocks and an ace. Denny had four service aces, including back-to-back aces in the first set, and Kaitlind Bestgen had a career-most 13 digs. Sophomore Jaime Colaizzi (18) and Culbert (14) also were in double digits for digs.
CSU had two chances to sweep New Mexico, leading 24-23 and 25-24 in Set 3, but couldn’t finish off the Lobos. The set loss was CSU’s first since Sept. 10, a span of 17 straight sets. The Rams won the match despite being out-hit for the first time this season (.220 to .236) and out-blocked (11-15).
“New Mexico is a good team,” Hilbert said. “We could face a battle like this in five of our opponent venues. They’re all that good. I’d like to win them all, but our deal is we have to learn from this and play well every day.”
The Rams conclude their three-match road trip Thursday at Nevada. It will be CSU’s only match of the week.