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CSU volleyball treats fans, media to kickoff BBQ

Head Coach Tom Hilbert answers questions from the media at Thursday's media/booster kickoff BBQ.

Aug 15, 2013

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Approximately 100 fans and members of the media were treated to dinner and a meet & greet Thursday at Colorado State volleyball’s annual media/booster kickoff BBQ.

Members of Head Coach Tom Hilbert’s NETwork group were invited to attend the end of Thursday’s afternoon practice, with Hilbert joining the crowd in the bleachers toward the end to talk to his fans about the team and the drills the players were working on.

The event was then moved upstairs, to CSU’s newly renovated Bob Davis Hall, located on the south concourse of Moby Arena, for dinner and a Q&A with Hilbert. The veteran head coach, now entering his 17th season in Fort Collins, introduced his team by class.

“I always really enjoy this event, and each year am amazed by the turnout,” Hilbert said. “We have tremendous support at CSU, and I’m excited to be part of it for a 17th season.”

Afterward, members of the local media conducted interviews, while the student-athletes also intermingled with fans.

The Rams, who reported for fall camp on Sunday and began two-a-day practices on Monday, begin the 2013 season Aug. 30, with a home date against the Baylor Bears of the Big 12. The match begins CSU’s 16-match home slate. Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased here.

Despite losing four starters and three All-Mountain West selections from last year’s roster, Hilbert commented that the expectations are as high this year as they ever have.

“This is a year where I don’t think we will be voted first (in the Mountain West preseason poll),” Hilbert said, “but we just had a goal-setting meeting today, and we want to win the Mountain West Conference. We have the talent to make it happen, we just need to put it all together and play with consistency.”

The Rams will be vying for a fifth consecutive MW championship in 2013, in addition to a 19th straight invitation to the NCAA tournament. On Monday, CSU received 15 votes in the AVCA Division I Coaches Preseason Top 25 poll.

Full media/booster BBQ transcript:

Head Coach Tom Hilbert

(on improvements from Kelsey Snider and Deedra Foss from summer experiences)
Kelsey went to China with a tour team (USA/Bring It Promotions Global Challenge) and played quite a bit, and Deedra played on the USA Volleyball A2 team. First of all, Kelsey brought a lot of things back from that trip. She has a really good serve that I hope we can put into action that she learned over there, which I was very impressed with. She played middle and that gave her more reps, so she looks very competent as a middle attacker now. Deedra I got to watch quite a bit because they were competing at the Junior Nationals. I think Deedra started off as not being the starting setter for her team, but by the end of it she proved that she was the better of the two setters on her team; I honestly believe that. I thought she was very good as a leader, I thought she was accurate, I thought she got the best out of the players around her and she was playing with some of the best players in the nation. Overall, I’m sure it was a good experience for both of them.”

(on the team’s expectations and goals)
“We just had a goal-setting meeting today, and we want to win the Mountain West Conference. I think everything leading up to that is preparation for that. The Mountain West is an interesting league because we have two new teams coming in. We lost more players than anyone else in the conference; we lost three all-conference players, so I’m sure this is a year where they will not vote us first. We’re going to be in the hunt, though. I still believe that this (Moby Arena) is the best place to play in the league, and I still believe that we should beat everybody that we play at Moby. I think the players believe that too. So now it’s a matter of what you do on the road; how many of those games can you get? We know the history of this league. We’re usually winning a lot of matches, but last year we shared the title with three losses. We can do that again.”

(on receiving votes in the AVCA Division I Coaches Preseason Top 25 Poll)
“It’s good. I think people do that because they are used to us being good, so we get those votes. Now there is a basis in there that if we go through the first weekend and beat the two teams we play, that we could move in. Then it’s a matter of continuing to win. The opening polls don’t mean a ton because it’s just people creating this baseline, but it’s still nice, and it’s a compliment to this program that people have that kind of respect.”

(on the value of having older players who have won before on the team)
“I think it’s very valuable to have Deedra (Foss), Michelle (Smith) and Sam (Peters); they have been around for a long time. Deej has been setting on two of those conference championship teams and knows what it takes. She has demonstrated so far some pretty good leadership and maturity. She hasn’t had to do that because she has always had that cluster of people a year or two older than her that would fill that leadership role. Now it’s on the juniors and seniors in this room, not just Deedra. Today there was a comment in the meeting that they think the chemistry on this team is as good as it has ever been, so I’m glad to hear that.”

(on the senior class of Samantha Peters and Michelle Smith)
“These are two wonderful people. Both of them have made huge contributions to this program already, and will make huge contributions this year. The contributions they have made are not only on the court but behind the scenes; they are both very good leaders, good players, good people, good students and they represent CSU very well.

At most programs around the country, Sam would have been a starter. She was playing behind Brieon Paige and Megan Plourde, and she stayed here and was very patient, and this will be a very great year for her. Michelle Smith is a defensive specialist/serving specialist, and has already made great contributions to this program, and will do it again. Both of these seniors, as I said, are great students, great leaders and tremendous ambassadors of CSU.”

(on position battles)
“We have had a lot of great competition in practice. We have not put a lineup out on the court yet that we think we’re going to use; we just haven’t gotten to that point yet. We’re still comparing people, looking at people at different positions, trying to keep people fresh and healthy. That’s one of the biggest challenges of any two-a-day-training camp. Our mornings have been more small-group training, where we try and get a lot of repetitions. I have a tremendous staff, and we split up into three different courts where we can give each player more attention.

I’ve seen different players have great practices, and there are going to be some hard decisions to have to make this year, in the outside hitting position in particular; those spots are wide open. We have Michelle Lawrence, Marlee Reynolds, Kaila Thomas, Dri Culbert . . . a lot of great people competing for these positions. We’re going to continue working with all of them and see who rises to the top and emerging as the players we want out there.”

(on position strengths)
“I feel very good about the libero spot and very good about the setter spot, and Dri Culbert will be on the court, simply because she’s a good attacker and she plays the entire game. She’s a great serve-receiver, and we need that, as well."

(on whether the style of play has to change from the past)
“I think one of the things that we have to do is play better defensively. I would like for us to be as terminal as we have been, but right now we don’t have a horse like Dana Cranston or Katelyn Steffan, so rallies will be longer. We have to keep those rallies going with great defense, so that’s going to be really important and it’s going to happen through effort and, good reading and being more mature. I’m hoping you see great defensive effort. We’re going to be an OK blocking team because we’re physical, but we aren’t going to be what we have been in the past. Maybe we get to that by midseason, but that is going to force us to have to dig more balls. I also believe that we do have great serving on our team, and we want to make that a big weapon for us, and disrupt other teams with our serving.”

(on the chances of hosting NCAA tournament matches again)
“The way it is working now is that you have to be one of the top 16 seeds, so yes there is a chance. If we perform better than everyone else in our league, our non-conference schedule is pretty good. Texas A&M is a good team, Missouri State is a good team who’s going to be a player in the race for the Missouri Valley Conference, and Baylor is a pretty good team. If we get on a roll and win 20 straight or something, then we have a chance. We have to avoid bad losses though, and that’s what hurt us last year. We used to be able to host just based on our geography, but those days I think are over. Now we need to be a top 16 seed to host. If we are though, believe me, they want to bring teams here because this is a site that brings them some money.”

(on Northern Colorado and Denver)
“UNC again will be projected to finish in the top three in the Big Sky. DU has switched to the Summit League, so they have been in three different conferences in three years. They are going to be good. We played them once this last offseason and they beat us, easily. I don’t think that’s really a good representation of how a real match would be, but it’s going to be very competitive. They are good and (former CSU associate head coach) Jesse (Mahoney) is a good coach. He knows us and is recruiting the right kind of players, and they are moving into an easier conference. I wouldn’t be surprised if they make the NCAA tournament this year. He knows what he’s doing.”

(on the improvement of Air Force)
“The guy that coaches that team is Matt McShane, and he is very good. He used to be the assistant at Utah, New Mexico, Cal and the U.S. National Team, and he wanted to coach at Air Force because he loves Colorado Springs, and he believes in what the academies are. He’s much better at recruiting and they have gotten some really nice players committed there. I think they will be good this year and even better one or two years into the future. They are not going to be basement dwellers anymore. He’s a fantastic guy.”

(on the location of Hilbert’s weekly meetings)
“It’s a negotiation between two places, and it will be settled very soon. I can tell you it will again be on Tuesdays, and our first meeting will be Aug. 27. It will be interesting because after that first one, the next two weeks we play on Tuesdays, but I expect another great year with great interaction.

Sophomore opposite hitter Adrianna Culbert
(on the mindset of the team)
“We definitely have a mindset where we want to compete, but we have talked about how, since we have lost so much and it is seen as a rebuilding year, that we want to come in as underdogs. We come in here and work hard every day, so it’s going to be really nice to step out onto the court. We want to prove that even though we lost four seniors we are still the program that has won all these times and has the reputation that we do. It’s great to go into the gym every day and see every player want to succeed at the level we always have.”

(on the difference between this camp as opposed to last year)
“I think it’s just looking at volleyball from a different perspective. Instead of looking at it as assisting everyone (as a setter), you are looking at it as I have to be the one to put the ball away. It’s just being more aggressive; I like it.”

(on which outside position she prefers)
“I like playing both. It doesn’t matter where they put me as long as I contribute to the team. Whatever they need me to be, I just like being on the court and getting to play with the girls around me.”

(on whether this team has what it takes to win a fifth straight Mountain West title)
“Yeah, I definitely think so. The competitiveness every day is incredible. Last year, we struggled at times with that, but this year it has been amazing. People have been working very hard and getting ready for the season, so it’s really fun to be a part of that.”

(on the newcomers)
“They’ve all come in and are immediately competing, which is great to see them do right away.”

Freshman outside hitter Michelle Lawrence
(on what she can bring to the outside hitter position)
“I hope I bring versatility. I think once I get the high hitting down, I’ll have a better time at being able to hit different spots, which will hopefully cause blockers to have issues and cause defenses to have trouble knowing where I am going to hit.”

(on potentially playing a key role)
“Every day in practice we are all super competitive because we all do want to start and we all want to contribute for this team. We think we can be an excellent team this year, so every single one of us is fighting for a position. I’m along with everyone else, and I want to be playing."

Junior outside hitter Marlee Reynolds

(on what it’s like to compete for an outside hitting spot)
“It’s very, very motivating. It makes you want to work your butt off to earn that spot, and also I think it’s a fun position to be in because you are competing every second of practice. I think it increases the intensity of our hitting and our practices.”

(on whether she played left side or right side growing up)
“I started playing left side my sophomore year for club, and then my junior year I switched to right side. In high school, I played left side, though, so I moved all over the place.”

(on offseason training)
“I worked out a lot and did a lot of strength training. I’ve been trying to concentrate on getting my forearm faster and doing a lot of exercises to help with that. I’m getting there; I’m not quite there yet, but it’s definitely improving.”

(on what it would mean to earn a starting spot at left-side hitter)
“I think it would be great. I want to be that player to help my team get some kills and help us win. It would be a great feeling. We all are pushing each other and making each other better; it’s a team sport, so we are all making sure we are all getting better.”



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