Dec. 5, 2013
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Colorado State’s record-breaking season came to an end Thursday, as the Rams fell to Cal State Northridge in five sets in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“It’s an unfortunate way for our season to end,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. “I’m proud of these girls. They’re a great group who had a great season.”
“It was a shock,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. “It came down to a fifth set. It was an unfortunate thing to happen to this team, because I think this team had a great season. They’re a great group of kids, and I think they played hard."
Despite the loss, CSU set a program record with a .933 winning percentage, finishing the year with a 28-2 mark, tied for the fifth-most wins in program history.
CSU put itself in a big hole, losing the first two sets for just the second time this season. The Rams led 9-8 in the opening frame, but allowed a 9-0 run, the largest of the season by a CSU opponent, and lost, 25-15. In the second set, CSU led 14-12, but again the Matadors used a run, this time 6-0, to take the lead.
"I was shocked over how we lost the first set," Hilbert said. "We started playing better in Set 2, but it wasn't enough. I told them at the break that it was a matter of admitting to yourself you can't control what Northridge does, you can only control what you do."
The Rams regrouped coming out of the locker room, winning the next two sets and forcing a fifth game.
"We served more aggressively, and once we started getting momentum, that really helped us," Hilbert said.
In the third set, CSU did not trail, and hit .727 (16-0-22), the second-highest set hitting percentage of the season. The Rams tied the match at 2-2 after turning an 11-7 deficit into a 12-11 lead in the fourth set. During the swing, setter Deedra Foss had two kills and a solo block to give the Rams the lead. CSU did not trail for the remainder of the set, leading by as many as seven.
The Rams carried the momentum over to Set 5, leading 7-4. However, CSU-N was able to score on five straight points to hold a 9-7 advantage. CSU forced a tie at 10-10 with a block from Samantha Peters and Marlee Reynolds, but the Matadors scored the next four points to set up Match Point.
Junior Kelsey Snider (16) and freshman Michelle Lawrence (18) combined for 34 kills in the match. In addition to Snider’s 16 kills, which came on 21 swings and no errors (.762) she had a team-most seven blocks and two service aces.
"It was a big match," Snider said. "It is the NCAA tournament, and we don't want to lose in the first round, but it happened. I think I played well, mainly because our passing was good and our defense was fantastic."
Sophomore Adrianna Culbert had 17 digs, one of three players in double figures. Peters, playing her final match as a Ram, had nine kills and six blocks, while Foss had 49 assists, four kills, five blocks and two aces.
As a team, the Rams led the Matadors in most statistical categories, including hitting (.328 to .248) and blocks (16 to 5). The Rams also had more digs and service aces, but Hilbert said looking at the individual sets is what made the difference.
CSU set multiple records in 2013, including a 27-0 start to the season, which was a program and Mountain West record. Despite being picked to finish second in the Mountain West, the Rams led wire to wire, going 19-1 and winning their fifth straight conference title and advancing to the NCAA tournament for a 19th consecutive season.
CSU will graduate Peters, Michelle Smith and Cayla Broadwater, but will return five starters plus its libero for next year's squad.
"Obviously you don't want to go out in the first round your senior year, but I think these girls played great," Snider said. "We fought how we wanted to, just not at the right times. If we starte stronger, we would have definitely had a better outcome tonight."
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