Volleyball recap: Rams sweep Utes, take control in MWC race
Oct. 17, 2009
By Danny Mattie
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Junior Danielle Minch recorded a match-high 19 kills, and senior Tessa Nelson added 11 more, as the Colorado State volleyball team took control of the Mountain West Conference race with a 3-0 (25-14, 25-13, 25-15) victory over second-place Utah on Saturday afternoon at Moby Arena.
With the victory, Colorado State (16-3, 8-0 MWC) ran its winning streak to 12 consecutive matches, while gaining a two-game cushion over the Utes (13-7, 6-2 MWC) midway through the league schedule.
“We played at an extremely high level today,” said Head Coach Tom Hilbert.
Minch set the tone early for Colorado State, matching the output of the entire Utah team with nine kills in the first set. The Rams jumped out to an 11-3 lead, and never led by fewer than six points en route to a 25-14 win. Minch closed the set with her nine kills on 10 attacks and did not commit an error, finishing with a .900 hitting percentage, and adding a solo block to help the Rams stake to a 1-0 advantage.
“This was Danielle Minch’s best match of her career, without a doubt,” added Hilbert. “She is super-talented, and I’m very proud of her. Today she played an incredible match, and I want her to remember that this is what she is her.”
Minch didn’t stop there, once again leading both squads with six kills on .417 hitting in the second set, and adding an assisted block to her totals, as the Rams cruised to a 25-13 triumph. The Utes fought hard early in the set, and even led by a slim 6-5 margin, but a Minch kill knotted the game at 6-6, and the Rams scored four straight to gain a 9-6 advantage which they would never relinquish.
Nelson added four of her 11 kills in the second set, and was instrumental in helping the Rams secure the sweep, with a team-leading five kills, and two of her team-best three blocks, in the final set.
The Utes, once again, hung with the Rams early in the third set, but were unable to halt a large CSU run that put the match out of reach. With the contest tied, 12-12, junior outside hitter Jacque Davisson, who tallied nine kills and added 14 digs for the match, put away three kills as part of a Rams’ 5-0 run. The run also featured a big block from Nelson and sophomore setter Evan Sanders, and a service ace, the Rams fourth of the match, by freshman Dana Cranston who served the rally.
Sanders, who recorded an impressive 47 assists in the three sets, put away her fifth kill of the match to trigger a 6-0 Rams run, which also included three kills by Nelson, and gave CSU A 24-14 lead. The Utes Sarah Hibbert, who led her team with five kills in the match, stopped the Rams run momentarily, before Minch, fittingly, put the cap on the win with her 19th kill of the afternoon to give the Rams a sweep with a 25-15 victory in Set 3.
As good as the Rams, led by Minch, were offensively, perhaps the defense was just as good.
“Our defense and blocking were key today,” said Hilbert. “We didn’t have as many stuff blocks, but we controlled a lot of tips, and really did a nice job of disrupting Utah.”
Senior libero Katelin Batten, one of the top defensive players in the conference, tied a school record with 24 digs in a three-set match. Batten’s dig total ties the mark set by former standout Kellie Barnes in a victory over Minnesota on Sept. 1, 1993.
Batten’s defense along with strong blocking up front, allowed the Rams to hold the Utes to just 24 total kills on .078 hitting, compared with 54 kills and .382 hitting by CSU.
Sophomore Katelyn Steffan also added six kills for the Rams, giving CSU a balanced attack that featured six different players with at least four kills, and five of those players who hit .400 or better for the match.
“When we are this balanced it is extremely hard for teams to defend us,” said Nelson.
The Rams will now turn their focus to a pair of very tough road matches to begin the second half of the MWC schedule. The team is slated to play at TCU on Thursday, followed by a Saturday matchup at New Mexico. The Horned Frogs and the Lobos entered this weekend’s action third and fourth, respectively in the MWC standings.
“Obviously, we feel great that we were able to finish the first half of the conference season 8-0,” added Hilbert. “But we know that the toughest road matches are ahead of us, beginning next week, at TCU and New Mexico.”