Nov. 13, 2008
By John Manuszak
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – In order for the Colorado State volleyball team to reach its goal of winning a conference championship, the Rams know what they have to do and it’s pretty simple. Win out.
They moved a step closer to that goal with a 3-0 sweep (25-18, 25-18, 25-17) over San Diego State on Thursday night at Moby Arena in front of 1,549 fans. It moved the Rams to 21-3 overall and 11-2 in conference play with three Mountain West Conference matches remaining. As the Rams head into those three matches, they have the luxury of controlling their own destiny.
“It’s good to get back on the winning track,” said Head Coach Tom Hilbert. “We know that the difficulty of the matches escalates with each match we play from here on out. We’ve got to do better on Sunday, do better next week, and keep going. I feel like we can play well and win (three more) matches to do what we need to do.”
The Rams, playing their first match since falling to TCU last Saturday, were extremely impressive defensively in the win. They held the Aztecs (8-16, 5-9 MWC) to -.020 (26-28-93) hitting in the match with the Rams tallying nine blocks and 36 digs. The Rams, who lead the MWC in opponent hitting percentage (.143) opened the match by limiting San Diego State to .036 (11-10-28) hitting in the first set and then turned it up even more in the second set. In that set, CSU forced the Aztecs to hit -.110 (6-10-34) while the third set saw the Rams continue their strong play as SDSU hit .032 (9-8-31). The Rams defense was at its best in the key moments as well. The Rams sealed the second set with a combination block from Mekana Barnes and Ashley Fornstrom and captured the match when Tessa Nelson and Danielle Minch forced the Aztecs into a hitting error.
“We’ve been working on blocking and defense a lot this week,” said Nelson, who finished the match with seven kills on .353 hitting and four blocks. “Preparing for them (SDSU) defensively was a big focus this week.”
Offensively, the Rams featured a balanced attack led by Katelyn Steffan, who tallied nine kills and hit at a .571 clip. Mekana Barnes added eight kills and Jaime Strauss posted seven kills.
“Katelyn Steffan really played well for us tonight,” said Hilbert. “Danielle (Minch) has been playing so well lately that she deserves to be out there also, so that’s a good mix for us.”
The Rams will finish off the home portion of their schedule on Sunday at 1 p.m. MT as they host UNLV on Senior Day. It will mark the final regular-season Moby Arena appearance for seniors Barnes, Fornstrom and Strauss.
“I don’t know what senior day will be like, but it’s not going to be pretty,” joked Fornstrom. “In my opinion, Moby Arena is the best place in the country to play. It’s going to be sad.”
CSU will then wrap up conference play on Thursday at BYU and then the conference-finale at Utah, which currently sits atop the conference standings.
“As the season progresses, you get a certain amount of mental fatigue,” said Hilbert. “A good team learns to get past that, and that’s what we’ve got to do right now. I felt like our team needed to play with a little more energy tonight. We won, we took care of business, but we’re going to need a better performance on Sunday and next weekend.”
Prior to what would be the Rams’ 14th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, CSU will finish up its regular season with an out-of-conference trip to No. 25 Long Beach State on Nov. 29.