FORT COLLINS, Colo. - On Friday night, the Colorado State Rams continued their momentum in conference play, sweeping the Wyoming Cowgirls (25-22, 25-13, 25-13) in front of a crowd of 3,727 at Moby Arena.
"The star of this game was our defense," said Head Coach Tom Hilbert. "Set 1 was a great game; we had more giveaways, but we corrected that. We won the second and third sets with a greater margin because they gave us more points. We were defending and blocking them really well."
The match began in see-saw fashion, with a first set that featured 14 ties and 10 lead changes. With the match tied at 11-11, senior Izzy Gaulia served back-to-back aces in the midst of a 4-0 run to give the Rams (10-5, 3-1 MW) a three-point lead. The Cowgirls (13-6, 1-3 MW) would rally back from there, though, to take a 21-20 lead late in the set. Again, Gaulia would rise to the occasion for the Rams, helping guide the team to a 4-0 run and eventually to win the set. It was just what Hilbert wanted to see out of his team.
"That set was neck and neck," said Hilbert. "It was really good to play that kind of a set and win it, because we need to understand that teams are going to play us well, and we need to be the better end-game team."
After being tested in the first set, Colorado State found its rhythm, particularly on defense and serving. A match after posting a season-high eight service aces as a team in its victory over San Diego State last Saturday, the Rams would again match that total, with eight aces against the Cowgirls.
From the start of the second set, Colorado State took control of the match, taking an 18-4 lead in the second frame. During a 13-1 run, the Rams were led by three service aces between senior outside hitter Dana Cranston and freshman outside hitter Adrianna Culbert.
Although only recording two kills, Culbert played one of her most complete matches in the eyes of Hilbert, tallying 12 digs as well as a career-high three service aces.
"She played great," Hilbert said of his freshman. "She was smart and did the right things."
Freshman defensive specialist Jaime Colaizzi also looked impressive, anchoring the Rams in the back row. Colaizzi had eight digs in the match, including one midway through the first set that took away a sure point from the Cowgirls and instead turned the momentum in Colorado State's favor. After the play, Colaizzi received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Going into the intermission up 2-0, the Rams made sure to come out with a statement to begin Set 3, as well. Using the same formula as the set before, Colorado State again jumped out to an early 19-8 lead in the set. Over the final two sets, the Rams only trailed once--3-1 at the beginning of the third set.
The win is Colorado State's third straight victory in Mountain West play and puts them at 10-1 when playing in front of its home crowd.
"Our home environment in incredible, and the crowd here was incredible," Hilbert said. "We have the best environment in the United States; I really think that."
Senior Megan Plourde led the attack for the Rams with 10 kills on .316 hitting (10-1-19), as well as registering three blocks. Deedra Foss recorded her fifth double-double of the year with 23 assists and 12 digs.
With nine total team blocks in the match, Colorado State made the Wyoming attackers look uncomfortable from the beginning. Mountain West Preseason Co-Player of the Year Jodi Purdy was held in check with only five kills and a -.071 hitting percentage. Only Erin Kirby was able to have a positive hitting percentage for the Cowgirls. As a team, Wyoming hit -.028, the lowest hitting percentage for a CSU opponent this season.
The win came in front of more than 30 former Ram Legends, each of which were honored on the court in between Sets 2 and 3.
CSU will now prepare for its third road trip of the season, traveling to Fresno State on Thursday (8 p.m. MT) and UNLV on Sunday (2 p.m. MT). Sunday's match against the Rebels will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.