Match notes: Rams look to continue success against Pioneers

Michelle Smith and the rest of the Rams prepare for their final match before conference play.

Michelle Smith and the rest of the Rams prepare for their final match before conference play.

Sept. 14, 2011

Weekly Release #4 - Sept. 14

The series vs. DU . . .

• CSU leads the all-time series 14-1, including winning 41 of 46 sets.
• The Rams' 14 wins over the Pioneers is third most against a non-conference opponent (current or former), only trailing CU (22) and UNC (15). Their 15 meetings is also third most.
• CSU first faced DU in 1977, the Rams' second season.
• In the series, CSU has won four consecutive matches since sffering its only loss to DU, a 3-1 defeat in 2005.
• The Rams are 4-1 all-time on DU's campus. Friday marks CU's first trip to Hamilton Gymnasium since 2007.
• Since falling to DU in 2005, CSU has won 12 consecutive sts, sweeping the Pioneers in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
• Of the Rams' 14 wins over DU, 13 have been via a sweep.
• Head Coach Tom Hilbert is 12-1 against DU.
• In 2010, the Rams swept the Pioneers, hitting .471 on the nght, and nearly doubling DU's kill total, 41-22.
• Last year, several current Rams were very effective offensively, inluding Brieon Paige (6 kills-0 errors-8 attempts), Megan Plourde (8-2-10), Dana Cranston (4-0-5) and Katelyn Steffan (6-0-8).
• Plourde made her collegiate debut against DU in 2008, one of four matches she played in before redshirting the remainder
of the season.
• Steffan is the only other current Ram to play in multiple matches against the Pioneers, recording 10 kills on .529 hitting in her second ever match as a Ram in 2008.

Last week's recap
The Rams came away with their second tournament championship of the season Saturday, winning the second annual Rams Volleyball Classic. Despite falling to Wichita State on Friday night, CSU was able to win the three-team tiebreaker and take home the title. Under Hilbert, CSU is now 60-13 when hosting midseason tournaments.

CSU kicked off the Classic with an exhibition match against Nova KBM Branik, Slovenia's top national team. Despite Nova coming to Fort Collins with just one loss in seven tries during its American tour, the Rams were able to win in four sets, thanks to double-digit kill totals from Katelyn Steffan (13), Megan Plourde (12) and Brieon Paige (10). All three were also in on at least five blocks on the night, led by Paige's seven.

In a losing effort to Wichita State, a team that has received votes in the AVCA top-25 poll twice this season, Steffan was on fire, recording a career-high 21 kills and attempting a personal most 52 hits. Junior opposite hitter Dana Cranston recorded 12 kills on .355 hitting, and setter Deedra Foss tallied a personal-best 47 assists.

CSU rebounded on Saturday, sweeping  past Northern Colorado on "Orange Out" night, behind 12 kills on .500 hitting from Paige. CSU, UNC and Wichita State each finished the weekend 2-1. The Shockers were eliminated from placing after dropping five sets on the weekend, while CSU and UNC each lost four sets. Since the Rams beat the Bears head-to-head, CSU took home the title. Paige was named to the all-tournament team, while Steffan was named MVP.

Lights, cameras, action
Once again, Colorado State will be among the most televised teams in the Mountain West.  CSU's3-0 sweep over UNC last Saturday was aired on CET, while at least four other matches this season, including contests at San Diego State (Oct. 2), vs. New Mexico (Oct. 13) and at TCU (Nov. 10), will be aired on national TV. Additionally, all matches in the MW tournament (Nov. 18-20) will be televised live.

Also, new this year, CSU fans can view live streaming of all home matches (except Oct. 13 vs. New Mexico) through the All Access subscription. Video will be linked to the local radio broadcast, and can be viewed over the computer. Go to www.CSURams.com/AllAccess for more details and to subscribe.

Follow the Rams online
Colorado State offers fans and media several options for following the CSU volleyball team.  In addition to CSURams.com, which is updated daily with all the latest news on CSU athletics, fans can also log onto RamVolleyball.colostate.edu for an inside look into all things Rams Volleyball.

Get all the updates on Facebook & Twitter
CSU volleyball and Head Coach Tom Hilbert are both on Twitter, at twitter.com/CSUVolleyball and
twitter.com/CoachHilbert. Rams volleyball is also on Facebook, giving fans unprecedented access to CSU volleyball.

Ram Report
The Ram Report, featuring football Head Coach Steve Fairchild, volleyball Head Coach Tom Hilbert and Voice of the Rams Brian Roth, has debuted. The show, produced by CSU's award-winning Communications & Creative Services team, is available to fans four ways. Viewers can tune in on television to NoCo 5, CSU-TV (Comcast Channel 11) or The Mtn., or catch the show on CSURams.com each week. Air times:

CSU-TV, Comcast Channel 11: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, at both 7:30 and 9 p.m.

The Mtn.: Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m., and other times to be announced (check local listings)

NoCo5: Wednesdays at 5:30 and 10:35 p.m.

For every edition, Rams football and volleyball athletes will join other coaches, along with Fairchild, Hilbert and Roth, who also will dissect highlights and game analysis each week. Also, fans can get an inside look from the coach's perspective.

Coach's Show
The Tom Hilbert Coach's Show is back for another season, occurring every Tuesday, from 5-6 p.m., at the Beach House Grill. Fans are encouraged to join Hilbert, who will speak about past matches, the upcoming schedule and answer fans' questions. Hilbert will also be joined by a different player each week.

About Denver
The Denver Pioneers have struggled out of the gate, dropping nine of their first 11 matches heading into Friday's tilt vs the Rams. The Pioneers were picked to finish third in the Sun Belt West after returning five starters from last year's squad that went 14-18. Their lone home win, however, came in five sets against Air Force on Sept. 1.

The Pioneers have a balanced attack with three players averaging more than two kills per set, led by junior middle blocker Faimie Kingsley's 2.58 average. Kingsley also leads the team in blocking (1.47 blocks per set), and ranks second  in attack percentage (.286), but as a team, the Pioneers hit at just .159. Outside hitters Alex Turgeon and Cassie Ronda, and senior middle blocker Alyssa Bonelli are the Pioneers' other offensive weapons, while their setter, Julia Cawthra, leads the team in attack percentage (.312), assists (9.30 per set) and aces (14).

Beth Kuwata is in her 16th season with the Pioneers, leading DU to a 243-230 record.

Success in Colorado
The Rams' match against Denver on Friday will be their second of three consecutive against teams from the state of Colorado. In its storied history, CSU's volleyball program has had its way against the other Division I programs in the state, winning 85 of its 104 matches. Against Northern Colorado, who CSU beat last Saturday, the Rams are 15-6. CSU is 48-2 all-time against its next two opponents--Denver (14-1) and Air Force (34-1)--in addition to holding a 22-11 mark against Colorado, who did not schedule CSU this season.

Moby was rockin'
Moby Arena has always been known as a hostile environment, ranking among the best in national attendance averages each season. On Sept. 2, however, a record 6,750 fans watched CSU upset then-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.

On the season thus far CSU is averaging 2,996 fans per game, good for seventh in the nation. CSU's record crowd against Nebraska is the third-highest figure around the nation this season. Among the top 10 single-match figures in 2011, the CSU-Nebraska match at Moby Arena is the only one that did not take place at Hawaii.

In the polls
With CSU's setback to Wichita State, the team dropped five spots in the latest AVCA top-25 poll, to No. 19. However, the Rams have been ranked for 23 consecutive weeks dating back to the 2009 season. The last poll CSU was not featured in was Nov. 2, 2009.

Best in the West
Entering Friday night's match at DU, CSU ranks among the best in the Mountain West in several statistical categories, including first in blocks (2.76 per set), second in hitting percentage (.256) and fourth in kills (12.81 per set).

It comes as no surprise that the Rams are the conference's best blocking team, and rank 17th nationally, as they have three players in the top 10, including Megan Plourde's average of 1.58 blocks per set, which is good for second in the league and 10th in the country. Rounding out the top 10 in the MW are Tori Brummett (0.81 per set; ninth) and Kelsey Snider (0.80 per set; 10th).

Katelyn Steffan, who has led the Rams in kills six times this season, ranks second in kills (3.69 per set) and third in points (4.29 per set). Setter Deedra Foss is second in both assists (10.37 per set) and service aces (0.41 per set). Middle blocker Brieon Paige also ranks sixth, with a .341 hitting percentage, while defensive specialist Izzy Gaulia is fifth with 4.44 digs per set.

Player of the Week Junior middle blocker Megan Plourde, who was selected as the Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year in August, was named the Mountain West Volleyball Player of the Week on Sept. 5, after averaging 1.64 kills, 1.09 blocks, 0.64 digs and 0.09 aces per set, while hitting .295 and accounting for 2.27 points per set on the week. The award was the second of Plourde's career (also Sept. 27, 2010).

The 700 club
Head Coach Tom Hilbert's win over Albany on Sept. 3 was his 700th match as a Ram, over 300 more than his predecessor, Rich Feller.

Hilbert began his 15th season in Fort Collins this year, and during that time, has left his mark on the CSU volleyball program, winning 364 matches (364-92, .798). In 2009, the Rams' leader won his 500th career contest, and last season, became the winningest coach in any sport in CSU history.

His career winning percentage of .767 (538-164) ranks 10th among active coaches, and he has led CSU to 12 conference championships (eight regular-season, four tournament) during his tenure.

Back-to-back ranked teams
Hilbert knew the first two weeks of the season would be a challenge, facing two ranked teams and four opponents who were in the 2010 NCAA tournament. During the span, the Rams came away with five wins, a pleasant surprise for a team who lost four starters from 2010, and had several returners change positions.

After facing then-No. 17 Oklahoma and then-No. 5 Nebraska last week, CSU went head-to-head against ranked teams in consecutive matches for the first time since playing No. 20 BYU and No. 9 Utah in November 2006.

Starting her senior year off the right way
Katelyn Steffan began her senior year as well as she could have hoped, leading the Rams in kills in each of the team's first five matches. Additionally, Steffan recorded double-digit kill totals in all five matches, including 13 vs. Nebraska, a career high. Prior to 2011, Steffan had never recorded 10 or more kills in consecutive games, let alone five in a row.

Get out the brooms
With the Rams' 3-0 start to the season, it marked the third time in the past four seasons that CSU has begun a season 3-0. However, it was the first time since 1997, Hilbert's first in Fort Collins, that the Rams swept their first three matches.

Starting fresh
After losing four starters from the 2010 roster, including four starters, the Rams entered 2011 with plenty of youth and inexperience. In fact, CSU has the second-most freshmen on its roster in the Mountain West. The Rams brought in four true freshmen and four redshirt freshmen. Air Force is the only team in the conference with more freshmen on its roster, with 10.

After the first few weeks of play, six of newcomers had made their collegiate debuts, including opposite hitter Kelsey Snider and Deedra Foss recording starts.

On the road
For the first time in four years, the Rams opened the season on the road. In 2007, CSU competed in the Asics Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii, but the past three years, opened up at Moby.

First again
On Aug. 16, the MW announced the preseason rankings, and again, the Rams were at the top of the list, as CSU was tabbed to win its third consecutive conference title. CSU received five of the eight first-place votes (New Mexico earned the other three) from a panel made up of the eight MW head volleyball coaches.

Preseason recognition
Junior middle blocker Megan Plourde gained the nation's attention with a record-setting performance in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season (CSU-record 19 blocks and 30.5 points; both figures were the best in the MW in 2010). She entered 2011 as the MW Preseason Player of the Year. It marked the fourth straight year that a CSU player has earned the honor.

National recognition
Despite losing plenty of depth and talent from last year's roster, the Rams, who ranked No. 17 in the final 2010 AVCA Coaches poll, moved up two spots to No. 15 in the preseason poll. It marked the fourth straight year that CSU opened up the season ranked, and the No. 15 ranking marked the highest received by CSU in the preseason poll since being ranked No. 11 to open 2004.

Representing her native land
While most of the student-athletes on CSU's roster and around the country spent their summer conditioning, taking classes or working a part-time job, Rams opposite hitter Dana Cranston was in her homeland, Canada, competing with the Canadian national team. After playing with Canada's B team in 2010, Cranston, a junior, tried out and earned a roster spot on the top team, which will eventually compete to earn a berth in the 2012 Olympics.

Filling the seats
The 2010 season began with a bang, as CSU triumphed over Duke, 3-1, in front of 6,333 fans. The mark not only shattered the program record, but at the time was the most ever in MW history (CSU broke its mark Sept. 2, 2011 vs. Nebraska). It was also the eighth-largest crowd in the nation in 2010.

On the season, the Rams averaged 2,180 fans in 2010, good for 13th in the country.

Together on and off the court
With as much time as the players spend together on the court, it should come as no surprise that they are so similar off the court. According to the preseason questionnaire that each player filled out, the music genre of choice among the team is country, with nine of 15 players marking a country artist among their favorites. Rhianna and Beyonce were runner-ups. Additionally, 10 players on the team selected mint chocolate chip (five) or chocolate chip cookie dough (nine) as their favorite ice cream flavor, and Izzy Gaulia was the overwhelming favorite for funniest girl on the team.

Sweet 17
The Rams began 2011 aiming for their 17th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. In 2010, CSU beat Cal State Fullerton in a memorable come-from-behind rally in the opening round before falling to host and No. 3 Stanford the following night. In the 16 years, CSU has gone 17-16 in the tournament, advancing to the Regional Semifinal five times.

Tourney time
With eight teams in the conference, the MW has brought back the end-of-season tournament for the first time since 2006. The three-day tournament will be played Nov. 18-20, in Albuquerque, N.M. The Rams have won four of the eight prior conference tournament championships, more than any other team, and hold an 18-4 all-time record in the tourney.

Media guide
For all history, facts and information about CSU volleyball, please view the 2011 media guide, which can be found online on CSU's athletic Web site, www.CSURams.com.

Up next
The Rams begin conference play on Thursday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m., with a home match against Air Force. CSU is 34-1 all-time against the Falcons, winning 102 of the series' 108 sets. Two nights later, the Rams continue their conference slate by welcoming the Boise State Broncos to Moby Arena for the first time as Mountain West conference mates. The 1 p.m. match will be CSU and Boise State's first meeting since 1995. Overall, CSU and Boise have met twice, with the Rams taking all six sets.


 

 

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