Nov. 13, 2012
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By Craig Buchanan
Athletic Media Relations
GREELEY, Colo.—In a match that tested them both physically and mentally, the Colorado State Rams walked away with a four-set road win over the Northern Colorado Bears Tuesday evening (21-25, 25-22, 28-26, 25-21), earning Head Coach Tom Hilbert his 400th career victory at the university.
The win moved the Rams to 18-7 on the year, and is the third straight road match that CSU has been victorious in. It was the history that was made on this night which was the focus, however.
Hilbert, the school’s winningest coach in any sport, recorded his 400th career victory at CSU on Tuesday. He is 400-103 over 16 seasons.
"How does it feel? It feels like win 26,” Hilbert said. “Wins are wins. I'm happy to win 400 games, but I'm just happy to win. This was a tough, fun match tonight. The 400-win deal is about being at the same place at a long time. I'm happy to be at CSU, and I'll be here as long as they'll have me.”
While the celebration was sweet, the Rams had to fight for that 400th victory.
“UNC was very tough,” sophomore setter Deedra Foss said. “They came out here and played great and made things very difficult for us.”
From the very first moments of the match, CSU knew it was going to get all it could ask for from the Bears. After the Rams jumped out to a small lead early on in the set, 8-4, UNC used a 9-2 run to propel them into the lead and gain momentum in the opening set.
The Bears held on to that momentum and extended their lead, eventually winning the set, 25-21. Led by four blocks and swarming defense, UNC forced CSU into eight attack errors and .139 hitting. While the Rams struggled to get their offense going, the Bears had no trouble finding their rhythm. UNC tallied 17 kills on .368 hitting and was led by its senior outside hitter Kelley Arnold. Arnold recorded nine kills on an impressive .643 hitting in the first set.
In Set 2, while CSU’s offense continued to try to find its way in the match, the defense rose to the occasion. UNC registered just seven kills while committing six attack errors for a .039 hitting percentage. The Rams were particularly effective slowing down Arnold, who only tallied two kills with three attack errors.
With the Rams clinging to a 21-20 lead, senior middle blocker Megan Plourde was involved in back-to-back blocks to help CSU win the set, 25-22.
Plourde finished the match with 15 kills on .407 hitting, while also adding six blocks. With her six blocks, Plourde now has more than 600 career blocks.
In the crucial third set, CSU willed its way to a 28-26 victory. The set featured six tie scores and four lead changes. With the Rams trailing 15-9, Hilbert was forced to take a timeout to try and regroup his team. CSU came out of the timeout swinging. The Rams went on a 5-1 run to cut the UNC lead to just two points. As the teams continued to battle each point, CSU made its move. Trailing 20-17, the Rams then went on a 5-0 run, led by four straight kills from senior outside hitter Dana Cranston. After holding the advantage at 24-23 and 25-24, CSU had to fight off a set point before rattling off three consecutive points to take the set, 28-26.
In the third frame, the Rams were able to find their rhythm with 20 kills on .325 hitting.
That offensive success continued into the final set. CSU minimized its errors en route to a 25-21 victory in Set 4. Midway through, with the Rams trailing by four, Hilbert took a timeout, and again his team responded. CSU was able to take the lead at 17-16, and from there, withstood the pressure to hold on for the four-set victory.
It was the second match in a row that CSU has lost Set 1 and come back to win the match in four sets. Both times, CSU trailed by at least five points in the third set before rallying to gain the 2-1 advantage.
“It’s awesome to get this win for Tom (Hilbert),” Cranston said of Hilbert’s 400th victory. “Tom is the best coach I’ve ever had. He’s such a great person, and I think that’s what makes it so special.”
In addition to Hilbert, several other Rams achieved milestones of their own. Replacing injured Izzy Gaulia as the libero, freshman Jaime Colaizzi set a career high with 14 digs for the Rams. Freshman outside hitter Adrianna Culbert recorded her first career double-double with 12 digs and a career-high 10 assists. Michelle Smith, who earned her third start of her career, added eight digs.
“"I was very pleased,” Hilbert said. “I thought Jamie was great. I thought Michelle was great. Michelle made some really good defensive plays, and she passed the ball well the whole night, so she did a great job."
Cranston matched her career-high for the second match in a row, with 19 kills, while senior middle blocker Brieon Paige added 17 kills on .342 hitting. Foss helped serve up a balanced attack with 47 assists and 13 digs, her eighth double-double of the season and the 13th of her young career.
The Rams will continue their road trip on Thursday night when they take on the Air Force Falcons in Colorado Springs in a key conference-matchup for CSU. First serve will be at 6 p.m. MT.