CSURAMS.COM Match notes: Rams hit road for Pepperdine Invitational - Colorado State University Official Athletic Site Colorado State University Official Athletic Site - Women's Volleyball
Match notes: Rams hit road for Pepperdine Invitational

The Rams will look to build off of its hot start this weekend in the Pepperdine Invitational.

Sept. 5, 2013

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Tournament Central (schedule, results, live stats/video links)

  • Fans can receive live Gametracker stats for CSU's matches vs. Virginia (Friday, 6 p.m. MT) and UC Santa Barbara (Saturday, 1:30 p.m.), and can stream live video for the Rams' match vs. Pepperdine (Saturday, 8:30 p.m.)

The Cavaliers join the Rams with a 3-0 record entering action Friday. Virginia beat Marshall, James Madison and Montana in a home tournament last week, and was paced by junior outside hitter Tori Janowski, who averaged 5.30 kills per set. True freshman outside hitter Haley Kole provided a nice secondary weapon for Virginia, as she has already accumulated 38 kills (3.80 per set).

Virginia will provide a tough challenge for the Rams, as the Cavaliers average an impressive 1.90 service aces per set as a team, in addition to 15.00 digs per set. Virginia finished 9-22 in 2012 under first-year head coach Dennis Hohenshelt, which was 12th in the ACC.

The Rams and Cavaliers have played just once, a 3-0 CSU victory in last year’s season opener at Moby Arena. In that match, Marlee Reynolds had the best match of her career up to that point, with seven kills on .600 hitting. Kelsey Snider led all Rams with nine kills.

The Gauchos open the weekend 2-1, defeating Nevada and New Mexico State (both in five sets) after beginning the season with a three-set loss to No. 3 Stanford. Leading the Gauchos on offense is senior outside hitter Katey Thompson, who is averaging 3.30 kills per set through one week of action. While Thompson is looked to to finish the play, sophomore setter Hanna Nielson paces the offense with 9.23 assists per set. On defense, the Gauchos are led by a pair of freshmen middle blockers, Phoebe Grunt and Allie Sullberg, who combine to average 1.45 blocks per set. UC Santa Barbara is playing under a new coach in 2013, Nicole Lantagne Welch. The Gauchos when 16-17 in 2012.

The Rams are 1-3 all-time against UC Santa Barbara — including 0-3 against the Gauchos on neutral courts, all in the 1980s —but Head Coach Tom Hilbert was victorious in his only matchup against UC Santa Barbara, a 3-0 victory at Moby Arena in 2000. During that match, CSU was ranked No. 7, while UC Santa Barbara was 13th.

Pepperdine enters its second consecutive home tournament with a 2-1 record, defeating Delaware and Iona in straight sets before falling in five to Wisconsin last weekend. Sophomore outside hitting Taylor Rachich leads the Waves with 3.50 kills per set on .280 hitting.

Pepperdine relies heavily on tough defense, and scores several points off of the ability to keep points alive. The Waves average 16.50 digs per set, with freshman defensive specialist averaging 4.00 digs per set, which Rachich is second on the team with 3.30 digs per set. At the net, junior middle blocker Samantha Cash leads the team with 0.90 blocks per set. The Waves went 20-12 in 2012, advancing to the NCAA tournament after an Elite Eight appearance the year prior.

The Rams and Waves have met 11 times in all, with CSU claiming the win five times, including the most recent matchup, in 2012. In that match, CSU, which was just 4-3 on the year at that point, swept No. 12 Pepperdine to earn its marquee match of the year. Kelsey Snider finished that match with nine kills, while Deedra Foss registered 35 assists and seven digs. The Rams, though, have struggled playing in Malibu, falling in straight sets in both matches, with the most recent one taking place in 2005 when the Rams were ranked No. 22.

Also with the win over the Bears, CSU improved to 3-0 on the season. It marks the fourth straight year that the Rams have begun with at least three consecutive wins. If the Rams can rattle of wins over Virginia and UC Santa Barbara, they will begin the season 5-0 for just the sixth time in program history. The Rams last accomplished that feat in 2010, winning their initial five matches en route to a 25-6 season.

In 2001, CSU won its first 20 contests before suffering its first defeat, to No. 15 Utah on Nov. 3. That year, the Rams completed the season 29-4 and ranked No. 10 in the year’s final poll.

Not only have the Rams won their first three matches, but all three victories to start the 2013 campaign have come via a sweep. CSU has started a season with nine straight set wins just five other times, including in 2011 and 2012. Each of those two seasons, CSU has fallen in its next set, but if the Rams can win Set 1 vs. Virginia on Friday, it’ll match the second-longest set winning streak to begin a season in program history.

The Rams will hit the road this weekend for the first time in 2013, and while they began the 2012 season 0-5 from Moby Arena, they bounced back, to win six of their final eight road or neutral-site competitions. In fact, CSU is currently riding a five-match road winning streak, which it will put to test Saturday at Pepperdine.

On a neutral court, however, CSU went 0-3 in 2012, which is interesting considering entering the year the Rams had been victorious in 15 straight neutral-site contests, a streak which dated back to Sept. 5, 2008, and included impressive NCAA tournament victories against two ranked foes.

“I feel confident with this team because we all play a lot harder this year, and we have better team chemistry,” junior setter Deedra Foss said. “Going out on the road will really test us and show us where we need to get better, but I feel confident with my team.”

The team’s five-match road winning streak is the longest since CSU also won five consecutive true road matches in 2010.

CSU has been exceptional in regular-season tournaments over the years. In fact, dating back to midway through the 2009 season, CSU has won 24 of its last 29 tournament matches, including first-place finishes in eight of the 10 tourneys. Taking away last year’s 0-3 mark in the Shocker Classic, CSU is 24-2.

True freshman Michelle Lawrence is quickly becoming a fan favorite. After an eight-kill, .438 hitting performance in her collegiate debut, Lawrence led all players with 16 kills on .519 hitting in a three-set win over Northern Colorado on Tuesday. She also added five blocks, totaling 19.0 points — the kills and points totals are season bests for the Rams.

To put the numbers in comparison, Lawrence’s 16 kills was the most by a CSU true freshman since Tess Rogers tallied 23 vs. San Diego State in 2002.

“On the court, I don’t feel the nervousness that I felt in the first 15 points against Baylor,” Lawrence said. “I feel more of a calmness, and that has to do with my teammates also because they’re all composed and under control, which leads me to be composed and under control as well.”

Added Hilbert: “Michelle Lawrence had an unbelievably good match for a true freshman out there playing. She was getting sets that I thought were good tempos for her. She also managed her out-of-system game very, very well. I thought she did a really good job of picking shots and managing her game.”

With a win over Northern Colorado on Tuesday, Head Coach Tom Hilbert improved to 40-0 at home against teams from the Centennial State — Air Force, Colorado, Denver and Northern Colorado. CSU’s last home loss to a team from Colorado came in 1995 against the Colorado Buffaloes.

In all, CSU has taken 92 of its 112 (.821) all-time matches against teams from its own state, including a 52-5 record (.912) at home. CSU’s next home contest against a Colorado team will come on Nov. 15, vs. Air Force. The Rams also travel to Denver (this upcoming Tuesday, Sept. 10) and Air Force (Sept. 26).

While the season is just beginning, the Rams are off to a great start, and they’re leading the Mountain West in several statistical categories.

Three of the MW’s top-five hitting performances came from CSU players (Kelsey Snider, .571, first; Marlee Reynolds, .524, fourth; and Michelle Lawrence, .519, fifth). Additionally, Lawrence’s 16-kill performance vs. Northern Colorado was tied for the best three-set performance on the season, and Foss’ 39 assists vs. Baylor is the most in a three-set match. Samantha Peters’ six blocks vs. Cal Poly ranks second among three-set matches this season.

As a team, CSU’s three match hitting percentages all rank in the top-10, with its .529 mark vs. Baylor the top spot.



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