Nov. 5, 2009
By Danny Mattie
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Just more than one year after becoming the winningest coach in Colorado State history, Tom Hilbert added yet another milestone victory to his coaching résumé on Thursday night.
The Rams’ head coach, now in his 21st season overall and 13th at CSU, won his 500th career match by leading Colorado State (19-4, 11-1 MWC) to victory over the Air Force Falcons (8-17, 0-12 MWC) in front of 1,092 fans at Moby Arena.
“It’s cool,” said Hilbert of attaining his 500th victory. “I just want to win matches to win a conference championship. I think some Mountain West Conference jewelry would be the ultimate. But 500 wins just means that I’ve been at this a long time. I was 24 years old, starting this career, and there was no way that I thought I’d be doing this at this age, but it’s worked out.”
With the victory Hilbert, who entered this season ranked 11th nationally among active NCAA Division I head coaches with a winning percentage of .783, became the 29th active coach with 500 victories, and one of only two at that level with fewer than 22 years of experience.
While the sights of Coach Hilbert celebrating a victory, and a Rams’ sweep - their 33rd consecutive victory over Air Force - are familiar to the Moby faithful, Hilbert gave the fans some new looks as well.
“We were ahead 18-7 in the first set and I started messing with our lineups, and that always messes with your team’s rhythm,” said Hilbert. “It challenged our team a little bit, challenged (sophomore setter) Evan Sanders, and it did what we wanted to do.”
Despite the lineup shifts early in the contest, CSU cruised past the Falcons 25-17 and 25-12 in the first two sets. The Rams’ shook up the lineup even more in the third set, playing without senior leaders Tessa Nelson and Katelin Batten, and needed a late rally to secure the win 27-25 in the deciding third set.
“I challenged my team a lot tonight by putting some different lineups in and playing some people that don’t always play a lot.” added Hilbert. “I wanted to play a set without either senior on the court, and that’s what we did. We struggled with it, and Air Force was playing with a lot of enthusiasm in that last set.”
Junior outside hitter Jacque Davisson, back in the lineup after missing the Rams’ previous match with a concussion, didn’t miss a beat, however, recording 11 kills, six digs, and three blocks, to help lead her team to the win.
“I liked Jacque’s energy throughout the night,” added Hilbert. “She played with really good energy and we need that in these situations. Our team doesn’t always know how hard to play, and we need people on the court who are pushing everyone to play with intensity.”
Another player to step up for the Rams was redshirt freshman Megan Plourde, who tallied nine kills on .389 hitting.
Sanders kept the Rams hitters on point, recording 27 assists, while senior Shanna Cassinelli, who saw her most extensive action of the season at setter, recording a pair of assists and three digs.
Junior defensive specialist Audrey Hemmings played her first set of the season at libero, spelling senior Batten in the third, and recording a team-leading 12 digs for the match.
The Rams will now turn their attention to a very quick and athletic foe from San Diego State, who is slated to visit Moby Arena on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“That match will be completely different,” said Hilbert. “San Diego State is very fast, and our team knows it. Our team will be alert, because they know they need to be alert against that offense.”
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