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Match notes: CSU prepares for national champions

Last season, a record-setting 6,750 white-clad fans packed Moby Arena to witness CSU upset No. 5 Nebraska. CSU hosts No. 2 UCLA on Saturday.

Sept. 13, 2012


CSU Rams vs. No. 2 UCLA Bruins

Sept. 15, 2012 | Moby Arena (8,745) | Fort Collins, Colo.

How to follow along

  • Live Stats: Live stats will be provided through Gametracker. A link for live stats can be accessed through the volleyball schedule page on www.CSURams.com.
  • Audio: All CSU matches can be heard free of charge locally on 90.5 FM KCSU, or worldwide at www.KCSUFM.com.
  • Video: Fans can subscribe to view a live video stream of each CSU home match. To access this feature, please visit www.CSURams.com/AllAccess.
  • Twitter: As always, CSU’s athletic department will tweet live updates and results from the CSU Rams Gameday Twitter account: @CSURamsGameday.

Tickets & promotions
Saturday’s match will be CSU’s annual White Out. Fans are encouraged to wear white, and the first 750 fans in attendance will receive a free white CSU volleyball T-shirt. Tickets can be purchased online at www.CSURams.com, over the phone at 1-800-491-RAMS or in person at the McGraw Athletic Center. During last year’s White Out, CSU established a new conference attendance record when 6,750 white-clad fans came through the turnstiles to witness CSU knock off No. 5 Nebraska.
Scouting UCLA
UCLA, one of the most storied programs in women’s volleyball history, enters the weekend ranked second nationally and has won six consecutive matches since its opening–weekend loss to current No. 1 Nebraska in Lincoln. Most recently, the Bruins defeated then-No. 8 Hawai’i on the road, followed by a home sweep, UCLA’s first home match of the season, against No. 18 Pepperdine on Wednesday night. UCLA hit .420 as a team against Pepperdine.

The Bruins bring one of the nation’s fiercest defenses, ranking third in the country with 3.12 blocks per set and holding their opponents to .163 hitting. UCLA’s offense is also strong, ranking 13th nationally with a .311 hitting percentage.

UCLA returns senior outside hitter Rachael Kidder, who finished ninth in the country in kills per set and points per set a year ago. Kidder is again leading the team with 3.89 kills and 4.33 points per set. In 2011, she was a first-team All-American and was named the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Karsta Lowe, a sophomore outside hitter, hits at .440, which ranks 16th nationally. She, along with Kidder, are two of four Bruins who average 2.50 kills per set or more. Also in the mix is Maddy Klineman (2.50) and Tabi Love (3.83).

The Bruins have multiple threats at setter, as two Bruins average nearly 10 assists or more—Megan Moenoa (9.87) and Becca Strehlow (10.53). Senior Bojana Todorovic leads the team with 3.80 digs per set, and freshman Hannah Boland is one of four Bruins with 1.00 or more blocks per set.

The Bruins wanted to challenge themselves in the non-conference portion of their schedule in 2012, having already traveled to Nebraska and Hawai’i, and now Colorado State, three of the toughest venues to play in.

UCLA is coached by Michael Sealy, who is in his third year with the program. A UCLA grad, Sealy was a three-time All-American as a player for the UCLA men’s squad and spent three years as an assistant for that team, one year as an assistant for the women’s team and four for Hawai’i before returning to his alma mater. He was named the AVCA Coach of the Year in the 2011 after leading his team to a national championship title.

Series vs. the Bruins
In all, UCLA is 6-1 against CSU, but the Rams have owned bragging rights since 2000, the two teams’ last meeting. In that contest, No. 13 CSU came away with the neutral-site victory, defeating top-ranked UCLA, 3-2, in Gainesville, Fla. The win today still stands as CSU’s only win against a No. 1 team in any of the four main sports. Four members of that 2000 squad will be in attendance Saturday night, and will make a brief appearance between sets 2 and 3.

The Rams are 0-2 vs. UCLA at Moby Arena, with the last match taking place in 1994.

A storied program
The Bruins own four NCAA national championships (seven overall national championships) and are considered by many as one of the most appreciated and storied programs in women’s volleyball history. Their consistency as a top-tier team can be seen by their national ranking while playing against the Rams. In CSU’s eight meetings with UCLA, including Saturday, the Bruins have been ranked first or second in the country six times. The other two times, UCLA ranked No. 3 and No. 4.

Defending champs come to Moby
It’s not every day the defending national champion comes to Moby Arena to face Colorado State, but interestingly enough, CSU volleyball has played its fair share of defending champs. Saturday will be the 11th time since 1983 that the Rams have played the previous season’s champion. It is the first time since 1988, however, that the defending champions have played at Moby Arena. Hawai’i won the 1987 national championship and visited Fort Collins in 1988.

In all, the feat has also happened in football three times, men’s basketball on six occasions and women’s basketball once.

CSU against top teams
For the fifth time ever, a top-two team will face CSU at Moby Arena. Saturday will be the first time since No. 1 BYU came to Fort Collins in 1993.

In all, CSU has struggled at home against the top teams, going 4-14 all-time against teams ranked fifth or better. However, CSU has a one-match winning streak (Nebraska in 2011), and is 2-4 under Head Coach Tom Hilbert.

A full listing can be found on the page 6 in the PDF document.

The CSU-UCLA connection
There are several interesting connections between the two teams. First, Tabi Love, a UCLA senior, spent her freshman season at Minnesota and played Colorado State in the NCAA Sweet 16, recording a match-high 22 kills. She also played with CSU senior Dana Cranston for Team Canada two summers ago. Bojana Todorovic, a senior outside hitter for UCLA, played for the same club team as Kaila Thomas, a CSU redshirt freshman. Thomas’ father attended UCLA.

Block brigade
The Rams year in and year out have been among the nation’s leader in blocks. Three weeks into the 2012 season, CSU is ranked No. 5, with 3.11 blocks per set. UCLA ranks No. 3, at 3.12.

Plourde named national player of the week
Senior Megan Plourde had a terrific week, leading the Rams to a 3-0 record and Rams Volleyball Classic title behind 38 kills, 24 blocks and .449 hitting. On Sunday, at the completion of the tournament, she was named the tournament MVP. A day later, she earned her third Mountain West Volleyball Player of the Week award. Finally, on Tuesday, she earned the pinnacle award, being named the Sports Imports/AVCA Division I National Player of the Week.

“This weekend really showed who we are as a team, bouncing back from last week,” Plourde said. “Putting in all the hard work we did this last week really shows how dedicated we are as a team.

“This is incredible recognition to receive, and I feel so honored to get recognized in this way. I am in such a great place and have talented and skilled teammates who push me every day in practice, along with coaches who know so much about the game. My goal is to make sure every day I am doing what I have to do to contribute and help make my team successful.”

Plourde joins Mekana Barnes (Sept. 4, 2007), Melissa Courtney (Nov. 22, 2004), Allison Peckham (Oct. 8, 2001), Kristen Walton (Sept. 6, 1993) and Carrie Appleman (Nov. 18, 1992) as CSU’s all-time national players of the week.

Streaking at home
Between 1998 and 2000, CSU won an incredible 44 consecutive home matches. Since then, the Rams have pieced together streaks of 21 and 20, and currently are riding a 16-match home win streak, fifth-longest in program history. The Rams will have to defeat UCLA on Saturday, followed by a victory over conference newcomer Nevada on Sept. 27 in order to match the fourth-longest streak, at 18, which occurred from Sept. 11, 1985-Sept. 13, 1986.

Home cooking
The Rams’ incredible success at Moby Arena is nothing new to those who follow the program. Since Head Coach Tom Hilbert arrived in 1997, CSU has gone an impeccable 218-27 (.890) on its home court. The Rams won 11 of their 12 home matches in 2011, ranking ninth in school history for home winning percentage (.917). In fact, CSU has won at least 10 home matches each year dating all the way back to the 1995 season.

Taking down the best
During Hilbert’s tenure, the Rams have hosted 36 nationally ranked opponents, coming away with victories in 25 of those contests, including seven of the last eight dating back to 2007. CSU’s most recent win over a ranked foe at Moby Arena was last weekend, when CSU took down No. 12 Pepperdine. Its next chance to beat a ranked team will be Saturday, when No. 2 UCLA comes to town. A win over the Bruins would be the highest-ranked team CSU has ever beaten at Moby.

On this date
The Rams are 7-1 all-time on Sept. 15, most recently beating New Mexico in 2007. CSU is also 5-0 on Sept. 15 at Moby Arena.

Moby madness
The Rams were again among the best in attendance figures in 2011, drawing an average crowd of 2,151, good for 17th in the nation. CSU has ranked high in annual attendance each year since the NCAA began calculating in 1986, including the top 10 seven times, led by the nation’s leader in 1988. With large crowds come big wins. At home, the Rams have knocked off nine teams ranked in the top 10 since 1987.

On Aug. 24, CSU’s season-opener against Virginia, 3,957 fans packed into Moby, falling just more than 200 fans shy of reaching the top 10 for single-match crowds.

Moby was rockin’
On Sept. 2, 2011 a Mountain West-record 6,750 fans watched CSU upset No. 5 Nebraska. The previous record was also held by CSU, when the Rams beat the Duke Blue Devils, Aug. 26, 2010, in front of 6,333 fans.

The crowd was one of the largest of the season, as only three schools had a larger single-match attendance figure than CSU in 2011.

Weekend rewind
CSU rebounded from the Shocker Volleyball Classic by going 3-0 en route to the Rams Volleyball Classic title. The weekend was highlighted with Friday night’s sweep over then-No. 12 Pepperdine.

“We had a fabulous week of practice, spurred on by the fact that we knew we had to improve,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. “I told my team at the end of (Sunday’s) match, ‘Let’s have another great week of practice even though we went 3-0 because it sure made us better.’”



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