Nov. 12, 2009
By Katy Johnstone
Athletic Media Relations
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - The Rams beat the Utes for a much-needed win to stay atop the Mountain West Conference Thursday night at Crimson Court.
As usual the match went down to the wire in all four sets (25-20, 25-21, 19-25, 25-23), but CSU (21-4, 13-1 MWC) was able to hold off Utah (15-10, 8-5 MWC) to stay in front of TCU and change its luck in Utah. After being swept last year in Utah, Colorado State was hoping to come away with a win against its conference foe, and it did.
Junior outside hitter Danielle Minch led the Rams with 20 kills, reaching double-figures in kills for the 17th match this season. Minch had several hard hits and timely kills to dispatch Utah Thursday. Redshirt sophomore Katelyn Steffan led the Rams with a .312 hitting percentage.
"Minch was very good, very good in clutch situations," said Head Coach Tom Hilbert. "She was huge and she only had one kill in Set 4, which gave her 19 kills in the first three sets. She was money."
It was a back-and-forth start for the Rams in the first set against the Utes, with long rallies and 14 tie scores. CSU pulled away with a five-point run late and the Rams finally took the first set, 25-20. The Rams held the Utes to a zero hitting percentage for the set.
"It was kind of ugly in the beginning, but we pulled it out," said Hilbert. "We had a lot of transition opportunities, but we pulled it out."
The Utes jumped out early in the second set with an 8-3 lead, as the Rams continued to struggle and were forced to take a timeout. The Utes went on a long run and held a six-point lead, but senior middle blocker Tessa Nelson came out in strong fashion, making timely kills and a service ace to help the Rams to their first lead of the second set. The Rams held onto their lead to finish off Set 2, 25-21, and give CSU a two-set lead over Utah.
Much like the first, the third set was a back-and-forth battle, and the Rams were not able to finish off the Utes. Utah went up 22-18 late in the third and forced CSU to take a timeout, before the Utes extended the match to a fourth set with a 25-19 set victory.
"Our history with Utah, we go to five sets," said Hilbert. "This is supposed to happen. It was a very emotionally charged match. It was unrealistic to walk out of here with a sweep."
The fourth set continued to the back-and-fourth scramble, each team going point for point, with 14 tie scores. Both teams wanted the win and several close plays made for an intense set. The Utes kept their momentum from the third set and only allowed the Rams to have two leads. Long rallies and a supportive, electric Ute crowd challenged the Rams in this set. However, the Rams pulled ahead with a 25-23 victory.
The Rams continue their road trip in Utah with a short trip to Provo. CSU will take on the Cougars Saturday at 7 p.m. MST. BYU will be the Rams' last conference road test for the 2009 season.
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