Nov. 30, 2012
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—The Colorado State women’s volleyball team’s season came to an end Friday, as the Rams bowed out of the NCAA tournament, falling to Purdue, 3-0, (20-25, 18-25, 19-25).
During the season, the Rams won their fourth straight Mountain West championship and advanced to the NCAA tournament for an 18th consecutive year—a streak that ranks seventh nationally.
“I’m disappointed because this is one of the poorer first-round efforts that we have had since I’ve coached here,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. “It was a tough draw for us, things didn’t go our way in the beginning, we didn’t really get in good rhythm and we never really got out of it.”
CSU fell behind in the opening set, 3-7, and never recovered. The Rams committed four service errors—a problem that continued throughout the match—and hit just .071.
“I probably made the mistake with that, telling our team to serve too aggressively,” Hilbert said. “I wanted them to be aggressive, but looking back, we’re already an aggressive-serving team, so I probably should have had them do what they normally do.”
The Rams took their first lead of the match at 4-3 in the second set, and led by two midway through. A Purdue run gave the Boilermakers a five-point lead, however, before the Rams battled back to make it a one-point game at 14-15.
“I felt like we couldn’t get into a rhythm and we gave them a lot of points,” senior Megan Plourde said. “Throughout the season, we were really good at not giving up point runs, and not letting teams gain momentum off of those point runs, and I think tonight we had some point runs that we should have stopped a little earlier.”
Purdue took 10 of the next 14 points to complete the set.
The Rams again dug a big hole in the final set, trailing early, 3-10. They would get within three, but their comeback attempt was too late.
CSU was swept for the first time in 55 matches—second-longest in program history—last falling in three sets on Aug. 29, 2011, at Oklahoma.
The match was the final one for CSU’s four seniors—Dana Cranston, Izzy Gaulia, Brieon Paige and Plourde. During their careers, they went 96-25 (.793), winning four conference titles and advancing as far as the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2009.
“I told the team in the locker room that this is a great team and a great group of seniors,” Hilbert said. “I’m very proud of them, not for what they’ve done this year but what they have done their entire careers. This match tonight doesn’t define our season or the program we are.”
Added Plourde: “My career has been amazing here at Colorado State. It’s been a big part of my life, and I have been so blessed and honored to get the opportunity that I did. I give my coaches all the credit for developing me, and I never thought I’d be here where I am today. My teammates have been wonderful too, and everyone is so competitive and gives 100 percent at every practice, and it’s just all been amazing. I’m really honored.”
Plourde and Cranston each had eight kills. Paige and freshman Adrianna Culbert had five apiece. The Boilermakers outhit CSU, .290-.149, forcing CSU into 32 total errors. Purdue’s Ariel Turner, the reigning national player of the week, finished with a match-high 13 kills on .257 hitting. The bigger issue, however, were her three teammates who totaled 20 kills on .444 hitting.
Plourde finished her career at CSU with 620 total blocks, ranking second in CSU history, in addition to 584 block assists, which ranks first. Gaulia’s 1,164 career digs rank fourth all-time.
As a team, the Rams concluded 2012 with a 21-8 record, winning 20-plus matches for an 18th straight season.
“I’m very proud of our team, for the body of work that they’ve put in this year,” Hilbert said. “We’ve done some great things, and have won some big games, and we’ve gotten better as the year has progressed.”