Sept. 29, 2011
By Nic Hallisey
Athletic Media Relations
LAS VEGAS, Nev.--The No. 21 Colorado State Rams opened up their first road trip of the conference season with a 3-2 win over the UNLV Rebels (25-20, 23-25, 25-19, 24-26, 15-12) Thursday evening at the Cox Pavilion.
It wasn't how Head Coach Tom Hilbert would have liked, but the Rams (9-3, 3-0 MW) have now won three consecutive matches, tying their season high, which was also set during the season's opening weekend.
"It's a win," Hilbert said. "It was a competitive win. We knew it would be a grind. What I was disappointed in is the fact that we lost the fourth set after we had it, I thought, wrapped up. But, I'll take a win on the road wherever we can get it."
In the opening set, CSU made just two attacking errors, finishing the stanza with a .500 attack percentage, led by senior Katelyn Steffan's six kills on eight attempts. Steffan was critical to the Rams' victory, crushing her previous high in kills by seven, with 28.
The Rams always kept themselves distanced throughout the first set, gradually widening the gap, including four consecutive points, to make the score 21-13. But UNLV (8-7, 1-1 MW) fought back with four straight points of its own to make it 22-18, before CSU finished off the set.
CSU trailed much of the second set, however, falling behind early, 7-3, and playing from behind the rest of the way. Down 16-14, CSU called timeout, and while UNLV got the next point, junior Dana Cranston slammed down three consecutive kills to knot the score at 17-17. The Rams and Rebels exchanged points to make it 19-all, the last of 11 ties in the set, but three straight by the Rebels forced CSU's second timeout. UNLV got the next point, and the set, 25-23. In contrast to the opening period, CSU recorded seven hitting errors and hit just .171 in the second set.
The third set began in similar fashion to the second set, with the Rams trailing 10-7 and making several mistakes. But a 7-0 run gave CSU a 14-10 lead, and the Rams never looked back, taking Set 3, 25-19. Steffan had seven kills in the set and sophomore Tori Brummett, who finished the evening with eight kills, added three.
The score was tied 14 times during the fourth set, but after clinging to a 16-15 lead, the Rams seemingly took control with four consecutive points, including back-to-back block assists and a kill by Brummett. UNLV, though, once again battled back with a 9-3 run to take a 24-23 lead, and ended the set with a 26-24 victory.
Down 9-6, the Rams rattled off four straight points to tie the score and take the lead, capped with a huge kill by Brieon Paige when UNLV's serve return went over to CSU's side of the net. From there, the Rams extended their lead to 13-11 on a kill by Megan Plourde. Steffan sealed the match with CSU's final two points. CSU recorded just one error on .500 hitting in the deciding set.
"We needed to count on people at the end of sets and Kate Steffan did just that," Hilbert said.
As a team, the Rams were paced by Steffan's career-high 28 kills. Paige and Plourde also hit in double figures, with 12 and 10 kills apiece. Deedra Foss shattered her career high in assists with 60, a season high among all MW setters.
"Katelyn Steffan won this match for us," Hilbert said. "Tori Brummett did not play very well early, but she came back and played well for us. I also thought Deedra grew up a lot tonight. Kate, though, was unbelievable. She was good the entire night, and played very composed."
The win snaps CSU's two-match road losing streak, which was the team's longest since dropping back-to-back road matches at BYU and No. 22 Utah, Nov. 22 and 24, 2008.
The Rams will now have two days to prepare for the San Diego State Aztecs, a match that will be broadcast live from Peterson Gym on CBS Sports Network, Sunday at 1 p.m. MT.
Warm welcome - Upon touching down in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening, the flight attendant made mention to the Rams, announcing over the intercom that it was a pleasure to have the team on board.
Lucky in Vegas - With its win, CSU improves to 27-6 all-time against UNLV, including 10-5 on UNLV's home floor.
Hot start in MW play - With the win, CSU has begun MW action 3-0. In the conference's 13-year history, the Rams have won at least their first three conference matches 11 times.