CSU volleyball's Tom Hilbert counts down his top-10 moments as head coach of the Colorado State women's volleyball program leading up to the team's season opener vs. Baylor on Aug. 30 at Moby Arena.
NO. 10 - 2006 MOUNTAIN WEST CHAMPIONSHIPS FINALS VS. NO. 9 UTAH
Dropping the first two sets, CSU came from behind to upset No. 9 Utah in the finals of the 2006 Mountain West Championships. The victory, led by All-American Mekana Barnes, earned CSU its 12th consecutive NCAA tournament berth.
NO. 9 - SWEEP OVER NO. 8 FLORIDA IN 2008
Facing No. 8 Florida, CSU was dominant from start to finish, sweeping the Gators in front of 4,009 fans at Moby Arena. The win was CSU's 19th straight at home, a streak that eventually extended to 21. Freshman Katelyn Steffan and senior Jaime Strauss led the Rams with 21 combined kills on .429 hitting.
NO. 8 - 2005 ROAD SWEEP AT NO. 16 BYU, UTAH
After beginning their conference slate just 6-4, the Rams concluded the regular season on a six-match winning streak, including two crucial wins over BYU and Utah, two teams ranked above the Rams in the conference standings. No team besides CSU had previously swept that road trip. Facing No. 16 BYU on national TV, the Rams won the first two sets before the Cougars knotted it up at 2-2. In a back-and-forth fifth set, Tonya Mokelki recorded back-to-back kills to close the match and CSU handed BYU its first home loss of the season. The victories were instrumental in helping CSU earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, including a first-round win over Colorado.
NO. 7 - 1999 RAMS ADVANCE TO HILBERT'S FIRST SWEET 16
The 1999 Rams went 30-3, setting a program record for winning percentage which still stands today. They were a perfect 16-0 at home during the regular-season, and were rewarded by getting to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. After knocking off Loyola-Chicago, the Rams took on nationally-ranked Kansas State in the second round. After splitting the first two sets, CSU earned 15-13 and 15-10 victories in the next two to advance to Hilbert's first Sweet 16.
NO. 6 - CSU WINS INAUGURAL MOUNTAIN WEST CHAMPIONSHIPS
Entering the Mountain West Championships as the No. 2 seed, the 1999 Rams defeated UNLV and Utah to set up a matchup against tournament host BYU, which was ranked No. 9 nationally. The Rams had lost to BYU just one week prior, but a dominating performance by several players helped CSU sweep the Cougars to win the inaugural Mountain West Championships title.
NO. 5 - RAMS KNOCK OFF NO. 5 NEBRASKA IN FRONT OF 6,750 FANS IN 2011
After dropping the first two sets, CSU staged an epic comeback, coming from behind to knock off No. 5 Nebraska in five sets during the team's 2011 home opener. When the final point was earned, many of the Mountain-West record 6,750 fans rushed the court to celebrate with the team. The Rams went on to win the MW regular-season and Championships titles that year, before advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
NO. 4 - CSU ADVANCES TO 2009 SWEET 16 AFTER UPSET WIN OVER NO. 6 WASHINGTON
A night after taking down Middle Tennessee State in five sets, the Colorado State volleyball team upset No. 6 Washington Huskies to advance to the Sweet 16 of the 2009 NCAA tournament. The win came in front of a raucous home crowd, and marked the fifth time under Hilbert that the Rams have advanced to the Sweet 16. That year, CSU finished the season 25-6, earning what would be its first of four—and counting—straight Mountain West championships.
NO. 3 - CSU ADVANCES TO 2001 SWEET 16 AFTER COME-FROM-BEHIND VICTORY OVER CU
In one of the most memorable events in Moby Arena history, Colorado State downed rival Colorado in five sets to advance to the Sweet 16 of the 2001 NCAA tournament—CSU's third consecutive Sweet 16 berth. In the deciding fifth set, which goes to 15 points, CSU was on the brink of elimination, trailing 13-9. The Rams were able to score to make it 13-10, and with Soraya Santos going back to serve, she aced a tough jump serve to force a CU timeout. The Rams were able to take five of the next six points to earn the come-from-behind victory in front of more than 4,000 fans.
NO. 2 - CSU KNOCKS OFF NO. 1 UCLA TO WIN 2000 STATE FARM CLASSIC
Playing in the State Farm Classic, an early-season tournament designed for four of the top teams in the country, No. 13 CSU first upset ninth-ranked Florida in Gainesville, setting up a match against the No. 1 team in the country, UCLA Bruins. Playing on ESPN2, the Rams jumped out to an early lead, winning the opening set. However, UCLA fired back, and was within one point of winning the match, leading 14-11 in the fifth set before CSU claimed six of seven points to finish off the biggest win in program history. Four weeks later, the Rams were ranked No. 3 nationally, a spot they held for five weeks. CSU would go on to record arguably its best season ever, posting a program-record 32 wins (32-5), winning the Mountain West title, advancing to a second straight NCAA tournament and finishing the year ranked No. 10.
NO. 1 - COACH HILBERT FLIES HOME FOR BIRTH OF DAUGHTER
The No. 1 moment wasn’t a monumental win. In fact, it wasn’t even a match Coach Hilbert coached in, but instead the only match he’s ever missed. After beating No. 22 Loyola Marymount in South Bend, Ind., Hilbert flew back to Fort Collins for the birth of his daughter, Myles Hilbert. The day, CSU beat nationally ranked Notre Dame, but the memory that sticks with him is being with his new-born daughter.
“We should always try and keep our important moments in perspective,” Hilbert said. “Go Rams volleyball, and I hope this 2013 season has a lot of great moments!”
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