Aug. 10, 2011
By Nic Hallisey
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo.—The Colorado State Rams women’s volleyball program kicked off its 2011 season Wednesday afternoon with its first official practice.
While it was just Day 1, Head Coach Tom Hilbert, who begins his 15th season in Fort Collins, said he liked what he saw from the team’s first run-through.
“The first day of practice is always fun because everyone is fresh, and they’re always competing,” Hilbert said. “The girls were playing with a lot of energy; they were loud and communicating well.”
The high energy was much needed considering the Rams begin competition in just 16 days, facing four teams that played in last year’s NCAA tournament in the first two weekends of the season.
“We’re a little rusty in some areas,” Hilbert said. “We’ve got to knock the rust off some things—we’ve got to get better at setter-hitter connections, we’ve got to learn to reduce errors. “But we’re playing with aggressiveness, and I really like that.”
The 2011 roster features a young team with eight players listed as true or redshirt freshmen, and several players learning new positions.
“This year, we’re putting some people in new spots,” Hilbert said. “I like the way they’re playing; I like what Katelyn Steffan is doing on the left side. Those are the things that make you excited as a coach.”
Wednesday marked the first time suiting up for four true freshmen: Kaitlind Bestgen, Brittany Bunch, Carlie Foust and Kaila Thomas.
“My first practice went pretty good,” Thomas said. “I’m really enjoying working out with the team and getting to know everyone.”
Hilbert saw several positives in the young players during their first collegiate practice.
“When we put the young girls in,” Hilbert said, “we don’t have a lot of expectations for them. But when they do good things, it makes you feel like, ‘Hey, we made the right choice.’”
The first practice was also the beginning of Steffan’s final season with the Rams.
“The team looks good,” Steffan said. “We looked fired up, and we’re ready to come in and work every day. It was a great last first day as a Ram.”
Keep on running: The team began Wednesday morning with an intense conditioning test. All but one player passed.
Life of a student-athlete: Before the Rams ever took the court this week, the team put countless hours into several team meetings that included information regarding academics, compliance and speeches from members of the athletic department.
Movie stars: In between meetings on Tuesday, the team posed for individual head shots. After Wednesday’s practice, footage was shot for the team’s intro video, which will be played before each home match. Several former Ram volleyball players made appearances in the video.
Extra help: The Rams’ coaching staff will get a lift from volunteer assistant Curtis Oliver. Oliver is a 2010 graduate of Johnson & Wales, where he led the Wildcats to an NAIA tournament berth each season.
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