Oct. 10, 2013
By Craig Buchanan
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – In a thrilling match at Moby Arena on Thursday night, the No. 13 Colorado State Rams (14-0, 5-0 MW) remained undefeated after topping Utah State, 3-1, (25-17, 20-25, 25-23, 25-18) in front of 2,806 fans decked out in pink for CSU’s annual Dig Pink match to support breast cancer awareness.
The win is CSU's 14th in a row, the fifth-longest winning streak in program history. Additionally, the Rams have now won 15 straight home matches, sixth-best all-time.
From the opening point, the tone was set that this was going to be a defensive-oriented match that the Rams needed to find a way to grind through.
“We need to give credit to Utah State,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. “They are a very good team. From the standpoint of blocking, digs and defense, they were one of the better teams we have faced all year, if not the best.”
With tough defense being played by both teams, the Rams hit just .173 while forcing Utah State (9-7, 3-3 MW) into 29 attack-errors and a .099 hitting percentage. That didn’t stop CSU players from posting impressive numbers on the court, though.
Led by sophomore right-side hitter Adrianna Culbert’s 14 kills, CSU had three players register double-digit kill totals, and had six players record at least six kills. Senior middle blocker Samantha Peters and freshman outside hitter Michelle Lawrence joined Culbert in double figures with 11 kills and 10 kills, respectively.
The Rams also received a spark from redshirt freshman Acacia Andrews, who entered the match near the end of the second set. Andrews provided CSU with much-needed energy and recorded nine kills on a career-high .692 hitting.
“We put Acacia in, and that was probably the turning point of the match,” Hilbert said. “Acacia made a huge difference; she was terminal for us today. They had no answer for her, and that reminded me of practice where sometimes we don’t have an answer for her either.”
In the opening set, the Rams trailed early after dropping three of the first four points. Once the Rams regained the lead at 6-5, the team made sure never to relinquish it, no matter how hard they were pushed. Leading by just one point at 11-10, CSU used a 6-1 run to jump ahead 17-11 and seize control of the set. The Rams closed with a 5-1 run to win the set, 25-17.
In Set 2, CSU once against dropped three of the first four points, but this time it couldn’t recover. After a back-and-forth with the two teams tied 12-12, the Aggies pulled away and won the set, 25-20, to tie it up at 1-1 heading into the intermission. It marked the first time all season that CSU had dropped a set at home.
Undeterred, CSU came back and battled in the crucial third set that featured seven tie scores. The Rams once again found themselves down early and clawing from behind. Down 11-15, CSU began to mount its comeback. The Rams tied it up at 20-20, and took their first lead of the set at 23-22. With help from Peters, who was responsible for four of the last five points in the set with a kill and three blocks, CSU won the third set 25-23, closing on a 5-1 run.
Peters finished the match with a career-best eight blocks, but none were bigger than those which finished off Set 3.
“That third set was a huge turn around for us," junior setter Deedra Foss said, "especially because we were behind the whole time until the end. It changed how we played in the fourth set, and added momentum going into it because of those two blocks at the end that got us the win.”
With all of the momentum from the intense third set carrying over into Set 4, CSU took a commanding lead at 15-8, and cruised to a 25-18 victory to finish the match. Making an impact, Andrews led the way for the Rams with six kills on seven attacks in the set.
“I’m ready to go in at any point,” Andrews said. “I’m very engaged on the bench. I love being out on the court and I’m just glad that I could step in and help my team.”
The 14-0 start marks the third-best start in CSU’s storied history, but it would not have been possible without key defensive efforts tonight against the Aggies.
The Rams posted a season-best 16.5 blocks as Foss provided problems at the net alongside Peters for the Utah State hitters. Foss finished with a season-best seven blocks to go along with her six kills, 47 assists and six digs.
In the back row, Colorado State had four players register at least nine digs. Sophomore libero Jaime Colaizzi paced the Rams with 21 digs, the second-most in her career, while Culbert and sophomore defensive specialist Kaitlind Bestgen each notched 10 digs. Freshman defensive specialist Cassidy Denny added nine digs.
For Culbert, it was her seventh double-double of the season, which ranks third in the Mountain West.
CSU will look to keep its undefeated record alive as it returns to the court on Saturday to host the Boise State Broncos. The match is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. MT, a half-hour later than originally scheduled to accommodate fans and staff traveling from CSU's Homecoming football game. Tickets can be purchased here.
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