Nov. 15, 2012
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By Craig Buchanan
Athletic Media Relations
GREELEY, Colo. - Playing in their second of three road matches this week, the Colorado State Rams came away with an all-important Mountain West victory against Air Force in three sets (26-24, 25-22, 25-16) on Thursday night.
With the victory, CSU (19-7, 11-3 MW) moved into a tie with San Diego State for first place in the conference standings. Both teams have two conference matches remaining. It also extended CSU's winning streak to a season-best six matches.
"My hat's off to Air Force, " Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. "They competed, they sided out, we couldn't point score on serving very well and they made us worse."
The Rams started out slow in the match, but again showed their resilience. After the first few points were traded between the two teams, Air Force used a 3-0 run to take an 11-7 lead and force a CSU timeout. The Falcons were able to maintain their lead until late in the set. Utilizing their own 3-0 run, the Rams took their first lead of the set, at 22-21, and were able to hold off Air Force to win the opener, 26-24.
Led by senior middle blocker Brieon Paige, CSU hit .343 in the first set with 15 kills. Paige accounted for seven of those kills on just 10 attacks.
In Set 2, the Rams jumped out to a much better start, and took a 6-2 lead. The Falcons showed some fight of their own, however, and tied the match at 8-8. Over the next few points, neither team was able to get much separation. Leading 17-14, senior Megan Plourde recorded a solo block followed by a Deedra Foss kill to extend the lead and force Air Force to use a timeout. Again, though, the Falcons charged back to cut the lead to one point, at 23-22. The Rams responded to the adversity and scored the next two points on Air Force errors to win the set, 25-22.
The final set started out extremely competitive again, with the teams splitting the first 12 points. Tied at 6-6, CSU used a 4-0 run to give them all the control they would need. The Rams continued to extend their lead, thanks to a couple of timely service aces from freshman outside hitter Kaila Thomas. The aces were the first of Thomas' young career.
A solo block by Foss sealed the match for CSU, as it won the final set, 25-16. The Rams were led by their pair of dynamic middle blockers, Paige and Plourde. The duo combined for 24 kills and just three attack errors on .525 hitting, while also adding seven blocks.
"Thank goodness for Megan (Plourde) and Brieon (Paige)," Hilbert said. "They were both great. We needed kills, and they got us kills. Without them, we don't win the first set. We might not win the match if we're not getting good production out of them."
As a team, Colorado State hit .367 and committed just 10 attack errors. Foss tallied five kills on all five of her attacks while also dishing out 33 assists in the match. In the final set, CSU hit a season-best .591.
CSU is now 39-1 all-time against the Falcons, winning 39 consecutive since dropping the initial meeting in 1982. The last 17 matchups have resulted in CSU sweeps.
The Rams will travel to Boise to take on the Broncos on Saturday in the final match of their three-game road trip. First serve is at 7 p.m. MT.