May 9, 2013
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FORT COLLINS, Colo. - After winning four consecutive Mountain West titles, the Colorado State women's volleyball team opens 2013 with a young, but experienced team, featuring just two seniors. Make no mistake, though, the team still expects to continue the program's longstanding success and bring a fifth consecutive MW title back to Fort Collins.
The 2013 slate will begin with a home match against Big 12 foe Baylor on Friday, Aug. 30, at Moby Arena. CSU is 11-4 under Head Coach Tom Hilbert in home openers, including winners of four of its past five. The only time the Rams and Bears have met on the court was in 2001, a 3-1 CSU victory in Fort Collins in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
"We're really excited to begin our season in front of our home crowd once again this season, and to do it against a well-known opponent like Baylor," Hilbert said. "Opening night is always a great atmosphere at Moby."
The following night (Aug. 31), CSU will play host to Cal Poly of the Big West Conference. The Rams are 5-2 against the Mustangs, including 2-1 in Fort Collins, most recently in 2009. Cal Poly struggled in 2012 under first-year head coach Sam Crosson, but is just a few years removed from back-to-back appearances in the NCAA tournament, including the Sweet 16 in 2007.
The Rams will then host intrastate rival Northern Colorado on Sept. 3. The Rams hold a strong advantage over the Bears--17-6 all-time, including 9-1 at Moby Arena and 12 consecutive wins overall--but UNC returns plenty of talent from its 2012 squad that won the Big Sky tournament and advanced to a second straight NCAA tourney.
"UNC got hurt by graduation and transfers, but I still think they'll be pretty good," Hilbert said. "We get them at home, which I'm happy about."
From there, CSU will hit the road for the first time, competing in a two-day, four-team tournament in Malibu, Calif., on the campus of Pepperdine (Sept. 6-7). CSU will face two 2012 opponents--Pepperdine and Virginia--plus UC Santa Barbara. The Rams swept Virginia in last year's season opener before upsetting Pepperdine two weeks later. The Waves, who were ranked No. 12 at the time, have appeared in back-to-back postseasons, reaching the Elite Eight in 2011. It will be CSU's first trip to Malibu since 2005. The Rams and UC Santa Barbara Gauchos will meet for the first time since 2000.
"Pepperdine is going to be a good, tough team," Hilbert said. "They're one of the top teams in the country, and we're excited to play them again. Virginia is still young, but they'll be improved. Santa Barbara is under a new coach, so there's a lot of uncertainty with them."
CSU will return to Colorado, but will face its second intrastate rival before playing again at Moby Arena. The Rams and Denver Pioneers, coached by former CSU assistant Jesse Mahoney, will meet in Denver on Sept. 10.
"I think Denver will be very, very good this year," Hilbert said. "Jesse is doing a great job there, and we saw that by how they performed this spring. He's returning some quality kids, and he's got some good recruits coming in."
The Pioneers went 17-13 in 2012, Mahoney's first, including 8-2 at home. The Rams are 16-2 all-time against Denver, but lost in the most recent meeting at DU.
The following night, CSU will host Missouri State, wrapping up its initial portion of conference play.
"A lot of people won't realize how good of a team Missouri State is," Hilbert said. "They're a top program, and they're good for our RPI."
The Bears, out of the Missouri Valley, have appeared in seven NCAA tournaments in the last decade and rank third in NCAA history for all-time wins. CSU is 4-1 vs. Missouri State, but the only meeting in Fort Collins, in 2006, resulted in a defeat.
CSU will then open up Mountain West action, hosting Border War rival Wyoming on Wednesday, Sept. 18. The Rams have won 30 of their last 31 meetings against the Cowgirls, including a 16-0 mark at home under Hilbert. It marks the first time since 2002 that the two teams have met in a conference opener.
"That's the way it's going to be as long as we stay with a 20-team schedule," Hilbert said. "We'll play our travel partner on the first week of conference, and then a lot of teams will pick up a non-conference game later in the week."
With the addition of two teams, each MW school will play 20 conference matches this season, up from 16 a year ago. This allows each team to play each other both at home and on the road.
CSU will then resume non-conference action on Saturday, Sept. 21 for its marquee match of the year, against Texas A&M of the SEC.
"We had the opportunity to get Texas A&M, who I think is going to be very good," Hilbert said. "It will be a tough matchup, but will be fun for us and for our fans."
The Rams and Aggies will meet for the first time since 2006. CSU is 5-2 overall, including 2-1 at home. A&M went 25-6 in its first season in the SEC, including a 16-4 mark in conference play, which was first in the Western division. The Aggies advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.
In all, CSU will play 15 home matches in 2013. The Rams are 226-28 (.890) all-time at home under Hilbert.
"The atmosphere that our fans create gives us a chance to beat anybody," Hilbert said. "We are playing the entire MW at home, and then some other really good teams. Our goal is to be able to win all of our home games, and then if we win more than we lose on the road we will have a chance to win the league."
Returning to its conference schedule, CSU will travel to Air Force (Sept. 26), New Mexico (Sept. 28) and Nevada (Oct. 3), before returning home to host MW newcomer Utah State (Oct. 10) and Boise State (Oct. 12).
Utah State went 21-9 in 2012, winning the WAC regular-season title. CSU's contest vs. the Broncos will be part of the university's Homecoming & Family Weekend celebration, taking place after CSU's football game vs. San Jose State.
"Utah State is the defending WAC champion, so they're a good addition, and it was key for us to keep Boise State and San Diego State."
Perhaps the most challenging part of its league schedule, CSU will then travel to UNLV (Oct. 17) and San Diego State (Oct. 19) before hosting Fresno State (Oct. 24). The three were the top teams in last year's conference standings, besides CSU.
"Fresno State will be good; they return a lot of good players," Hilbert said. "I think San Diego State will be great. UNLV is also going to be good. All of those teams have a lot of talent coming back. I would expect we are going to be battling like crazy to win the league."
CSU will close out the first half of its conference slate against the second new member to the league, San Jose State (Oct. 26). CSU is 6-4 all-time against the Spartans, but the two teams have not faced since 1998.
From there, the Rams will play at Boise State (Oct. 31), Utah State (Nov. 2) and Wyoming (Nov. 5); vs. Nevada (Nov. 9), New Mexico (Nov. 14), and Air Force (Nov. 15); and at San Jose State (Nov. 21) and Fresno State (Nov. 23). The Rams' regular season will conclude with home dates against San Diego State (Nov. 27) and UNLV (Nov. 29).
In all, six of CSU's nine non-conference opponents held winning records last season, with three advancing to the NCAA tournament. Additionally, seven MW foes had a winning mark in 2012, with four winning 20-plus matches and San Diego State making the postseason. All-time, CSU holds a .720 winning percentage (295-115) against its 2013 opponents.
"I was trying to get a schedule that would work where we could get some good, successful RPI teams, but also compete well," Hilbert said. "I think we were able to do that, and I'm excited to get this season started."
Fourteen of CSU's 15 home matches have start times finalized. Undetermined first serve times will be announced at a later date. Ticket plans and prices will be released later this month. For now, new season ticket holders can place a deposit to guarantee season tickets for CSU's 15 home matches.