Nov. 26, 2011
By Nic Hallisey
Athletic Media Relations
LAS CRUCES, N.M.—The Colorado State volleyball team remembers two years ago when New Mexico State came to Moby Arena and beat the Rams on the final day of the regular season. They weren’t going to let that happen again, beating the Aggies in four sets (25-23, 24-26, 25-23, 25-23).
“They’re a good team to play to prepare for NCAAs,” senior Katelyn Steffan said. “They’re big and physical, and they simulate a first or second-round game. Getting this win gives us momentum going into the tournament.”
CSU (23-5) tied a season high with 19 blocks and hit. 287 in the match, led by .389 hitting in the fourth set. Dana Cranston led the Rams with 14 kills on .316 hitting, in addition to 14 digs for her fifth double-double of the season. Megan Plourde (12 kills), Katelyn Steffan (11) and Brieon Paige (10) were also in double figures, while Plourde was the leading blocker with nine. Setter Deedra Foss recorded 49 assists in the four sets and a season-high eight blocks.
The Aggies (23-10) recorded more kills (72-56) than the Rams, and were led by Meredith Hays' 31. However, Hays also recorded 16 kills.
“It was a good win because it was four tight games,” Hilbert said. “That’s preparation for the NCAA tournament. They (New Mexico State) played well, and they played better offensively than we did in terms of getting kills, but we were the more mature team, and in the end that ended up winning the match for us.”
In a set in which neither team could put together runs, the Rams were always one step behind. That is, until the end. The Rams trailed the Aggies by one point 20 different times and were tied on nine occasions, but trailing 20-18, CSU used its second timeout. The two teams alternated the next seven points, but following a kill from Steffan, Cranston had a kill of her own to give the Rams back-to-back points and force a 23-23 tie. NMSU used its first timeout, and following an attack error long by the Aggies, it used its second, trailing 24-23. The next point was blocked by Cranston, giving the Rams their first two-point lead of the set, and the win.
The Rams seemingly had Set 2 in the bag, using an 8-3 run to turn a 15-15 tie into a 23-18 advantage. But the Aggies took four straight to force a one-point game, and extended the run to 8-1 to beat CSU, 26-24.
“The end of the second set upset me,” Hilbert said. “We fell into a real tentative spell there and we’ve got to be better than that if we’re going to go on and win big matches. But I thought we bounced back and played well in the other three sets in the end game.”
The Rams led early, 5-1, and midway through, 12-8, but couldn’t hold their lead, allowing the Aggies to chip away, eventually being tied, 16-16, and trailing for the first time, 17-16. From there, the Rams and Aggies were tied at each number between 16 and 22. Knotted at 22-22, the Rams got a big kill from Steffan to take their first lead since 16-15. CSU got two of the final three points, including a block from Plourde and Foss, and a kill from Plourde to take the set, 25-23, and the advantage in the match, 2-1.
“I think that was really big,” Hilbert said on regaining momentum. “We bounced back from what was a disaster at the end of the second set, and we did it because we started off strong. We served well and we blocked well, and then we just hung in there from the sideout standpoint.”
CSU led early again, 5-1, in Set 4, but unlike the previous sets, they were in the driver’s seat the entire way, never trailing. NMSU got within one on three times, beginning with 21-20, but remained on top, closing out the set with a 25-23 win.
“They were always two-point games,” Hilbert said, “and I thought we played well. We started off not being able to get kills, and as the match progressed, our outside hitters were able to get kills, and that helped us.”
With the victory, CSU improves to 19-10 against its former conference foe. The win also concludes the Rams’ regular season, and gives CSU a five-match winning streak entering the NCAA tournament.
The Rams, who clinched their 17th straight NCAA tournament berth last weekend with a win at the 2011 Mountain West Volleyball Championship, will learn its postseason destination Sunday at 4 p.m. Fans are encouraged to join the team at the Beach House (125 S. College Ave.) to watch as the bracket is revealed on ESPNU. The team will arrive around 3:15. Hilbert will address the crowd prior to the announcement, and again talk once the pairings are determined.