FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The Colorado State Rams hosted the Fresno State Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon in a match that featured two teams vying for the Mountain West regular-season title.
The Rams came out on top over the Bulldogs (16-11, 7-6 MW) in a highly-contested four set match (23-25, 25-10, 27-25, 25-16), extending their win streak to a season-high four games.
With the victory, CSU (17-7, 10-3 MW) kept pace with conference-leading San Diego State, and is tied for first place. The Aztecs host Boise State tonight. The Rams also improved to an impressive 14-1 when playing in front of their home crowd at Moby Arena.
“This match was a battle. I’m proud of our team for coming through and winning this,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. “I think this is one of our bigger wins of the year considering the conditions. I’m very proud.”
With 15 kills and five blocks in the victory, senior Megan Plourde made history, becoming just the third Ram to ever record 1,000 kills and 500 blocks in her career. Plourde now also sits in fourth place in Mountain West history in career blocks, with 595.
“I’m definitely very blessed and honored to receive that recognition,” Plourde said. “I have amazing surrounding players and some amazing coaches. I honestly never thought that I would be here.”
In Set 1, both offenses jumped out to strong starts, with neither defense looking like they had an answer. Fresno State’s Korrin Wild tallied six kills on .545 hitting, while CSU’s Dana Cranston registered six kills on .750 hitting. Both teams hit over .300 for the first set.
The Rams trailed for much of the opening set, but were finally able to tie it up at 15-15 after trailing by as many as five earlier in the set. When the Rams took the lead at 20-19 after a kill by freshman Kaila Thomas, the Bulldogs took a timeout to regroup. Fresno State responded by scoring six of the last nine points in the set to win, 25-23.
In Set 2, CSU’s offense continued to heat up while its defense also picked up its play. The Rams scored on the first point and never relinquished the lead en route to a 25-10 win in the second set, including an 8-0 run with Cranston at the service line.
Led by another six kills from Cranston, the Rams had 16 kills on .577 hitting. Defensively, Colorado State frustrated the Fresno attackers, forcing them into six attack errors and .071 hitting
Coming out of the intermission, the match started to heat up again, with the Bulldogs grasping on to an early lead in the set. The Rams battled back to tie the game at 7-7, but every time CSU would make a run, Fresno State would answer with a run of its own.
Trailing 16-20 late in the third set, Hilbert took a timeout to calm his team down. The Rams came out of the timeout and began chipping away at the lead. CSU fought off two set points, and finished the set on a 3-0 run to win, 27-25.
In Set 3, middle blockers Brieon Paige and Plourde began to leave their mark on the match. The duo combined for eight kills and four blocks, and forced Fresno State into 11 attack errors in the set.
Sensing that the match was theirs to win, Colorado State left no doubt who was walking away with a victory in Set 4. After being tied at 1-1, the Rams went on a 5-1 run to force a Fresno State timeout. This time, the Bulldogs were not able to respond as CSU kept their lead throughout the entire set, winning 25-16.
Again the middle blockers were the difference, with Plourde registering six kills on six attacks, and Paige adding two kills and four blocks. Paige finished the match with 11 kills and tied her career high with eight blocks.
Offensively, the Rams were as efficient as they were all year. Deedra Foss tallied 47 assists and helped guide CSU to a season-best .459 hitting.
“Deedra Foss was the difference,” Hilbert said. “You don’t hit .459 without good setting.”
Cranston led the way for the Rams on offense, matching her career high with 19 kills. Thomas also played her best game, setting career highs with nine kills and two blocks.
The Rams will be busy this coming week with three road matches, beginning with Northern Colorado on Tuesday night.