Nov. 29, 2008
By John Manuszak
Athletic Media Relations
LONG BEACH, Calif. – In a showdown of two teams hoping for deep runs in the upcoming NCAA tournament, the Colorado State Rams went on the road and fell in four sets (25-23, 20-25, 13-25, 23-25) to perennial power Long Beach State on Saturday night at Walter Pyramid.
The Rams rallied for a first set win and then couldn’t get things going again as the loss finished off a 22-6 regular season for CSU. Colorado State will look to rebound from Saturday’s loss when the NCAA tournament opens next Friday. The Rams, who expect to be making their 14th consecutive appearance in the tournament, will find out their fate when the Div. I tournament bracket is announced at 8 p.m. MT on Sunday.
“I thought we were competitive tonight,” said Rams Head Coach Tom Hilbert. “Lately, we play well up until about 18 points (in a set) and then we get errors and our fortitude and competitiveness runs out, and that’s disappointing to a coach. We aren’t competing right now but the good thing is that is something that we can change.”
Long Beach State, which will be making its 22nd consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament and has eight final fours and five national championships to its credit, used a 5-2 run late in the second set to even the match at 1 and then were in control from there on out.
The 49ers opened the third set by scoring the first six points on their way to taking a 12-3 lead to set the tone. The Rams got within seven points at 16-9 but couldn’t get any closer and dropped the third set 25-13. CSU picked it up in the fourth set and held a 9-7 lead before the 49ers turned it on. Long Beach State scored seven of nine points to give themselves an 18-15 lead and control of the match. But the Rams would not go away that easily as CSU fought off three match points and got within 25-23 before the 49ers put the Rams away for good.
The Rams, typically a solid blocking team, could not stop the 49ers attack. On the night, Long Beach State hit a combined .346 and CSU only tallied six blocks. The 49ers hit over .240 in each of the four sets while CSU hit .552 in their opening set win, but didn’t hit above .200 in any set the rest of the way.
Mekana Barnes led the way for the Rams in the loss as she finished with 12 kills while Danielle Minch posted her third straight match with double-digit kills as she finished with 11. Katelyn Steffan also registered 10 kills while Tessa Nelson tallied eight kills on .500 hitting and added six blocks.
Despite the loss, Hilbert and the Rams know that the NCAA tournament is the start of a new season and anything can happen.
“Heading into the NCAA tournament, we have to make up our minds and have a different attitude going into those matches,” said Hilbert. “I have a feeling that this team expects it (wins) to fall in our lap and that’s just not the case. We are going to have to earn it and we know that.”
Rams fans can watch the tournament brackets unveiled along with the team on Sunday night at The Stonehouse Grille in Fort Collins. Hilbert and Rams players will arrive at 7 p.m. with the brackets being announced at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.
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