Oct. 19, 2013
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SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The No. 12 Colorado State Rams knew this weekend would be one of the toughest of the season, facing two of the top teams in the conference. The Rams came away unscathed, though, capping it Saturday with a come-from-behind 3-1 victory at San Diego State (19-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-17).
CSU dropped the initial set and trailed late in Set 2 before staging a major comeback and shifting the momentum. The Rams went on to win the next two sets to remain undefeated, improving to 17-0 overall and 8-0 in the Mountain West. CSU owns a two-game lead in the conference standings, and is one of two unbeaten teams in the country.
“It was fantastic,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said of Saturday’s win. “This was a super competitive effort. Our team never lost their cool and battled the entire time. This team responds really well when it’s tough.”
The 17-0 start is tied for the second-best in program history (also 1999), and the Rams’ 17-match winning streak is tied for fourth-longest. CSU has now won 12 consecutive true road contests, which is a program record, one ahead of the previous mark set in 2003.
“Our team just goes into these matches — both being pretty hostile environments – and plays with maturity,” Hilbert said of the weekend road trip. “I really like how this team is on the road. For the most part, we do the right things in adverse situations.”
Stepping up for an injured Michelle Lawrence, who did not suit up after injuring her ankle in practice on Friday, sophomore Kaila Thomas had a career-high 11 kills, hitting .308 from the left side. Thomas entered the match with just 23 kills in 20 sets on the season.
“To me, Kaila is our player of the game,” Hilbert said. “We needed her to step up in Michelle’s absence, and she did. She didn’t make a lot of mistakes and she kept fighting. We needed kills, and really in end-game situations is when she was getting them. She found different ways to get kills; she was very resourceful. I was real pleased.”
Also pacing the offense was junior outside hitter Marlee Reynolds and middle blockers Samantha Peters and Kelsey Snider. Reynolds had 18 kills while Peters had 13. Both figures were one shy of career highs. Snider added 11 on .400 hitting.
“We had great numbers out of our middles, and again, Marlee was a warrior the whole time,” Hilbert said.
Peters led CSU with nine blocks, followed by Reynolds’ seven (career high) and Snider’s four. As a team, the Rams out-blocked San Diego State (9-9, 4-4 MW), 13 to 11, and out-hit the Aztecs .284 to 195. Jaime Colaizzi had 20 digs, including several diving stabs which prolonged rallies late in sets. The sophomore has posted 20-plus dig performances in consecutive matches.
“Jaime Colaizzi stepped it up at the end of every set,” Hilbert said. “She was making big plays to extend rallies. She was really good defensively.”
After losing Set 1, CSU trailed by as many as five – as late as 18-13 — in the second frame. The Rams, though, responded with a 10-4 run to regain the lead at 23-22, and closed the set two plays later, 25-22. It was the largest deficit CSU has overcome in a set victory this season. Thomas began the run with three kills, and Reynolds capped it with four kills and a block over the final six points for CSU.
The Rams scored eight of nine points to go on top 12-8 in Set 3, and while the Aztecs would get within two on several occasions, CSU played in front for the remainder of the set. The Rams did not trail in Set 4, closing on an 11-3 run to win the match after holding a 14-14 tie.
San Diego State, which went 13-3 in MW play in 2012 to earn a share of the MW title with CSU, was picked by the league’s head coaches to win the 2013 conference title. UNLV, which CSU beat on Thursday, is in second place.
“We played two tough teams on the road in the same weekend, and we won them both,” Hilbert said. “I’m very pleased.”
CSU returns to Moby Arena – where it has won 16 straight and 32 of its last 33 matches – this week to close the first half of MW action vs. Fresno State (Thursday) and San José State (Saturday). Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone at 1-800-491-RAMS or at the McGraw Athletic Center ticket office.
“We show weaknesses every day, but I do think this is a very good team,” Hilbert said. “We’re not talking to our team about being undefeated; we’re not telling them they’re supposed to be winning. All we’re doing is preparing for the next match and looking at each match as a challenge. You just have to be mature and play each match, and that’s what they’re doing.”