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CSU volleyball opens MWC play at UNLV

Sept. 17, 2009


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Match 11 | Colorado State (7-3, 0-0 MWC) at UNLV (1-6, 0-0 MWC)
Friday, Sept. 19, 2009 | 8 p.m. MT | Las Vegas, Nev. | Cox Pavilion (2,452)

Up next
Colorado State, coming off of a tournament championship at the Carolina Classic, and riding a three-match winning streak, opens Mountain West Conference play this week at UNLV. 

The Rams head to Las Vegas, Nev., to take on the UNLV Rebels on Friday night in the MWC opener for both teams at Cox Pavilion.  The match, which is the Rams’ only contest of the week, is slated to start at 8 p.m. MT. 

Live statistics will be available for each of the Rams’ contests by clicking on the “Gametracker” links from the schedule page on CSURams.com. 

Rams on the radio
Each of Colorado State’s matches this season, with the exception of the Sept. 18 contest at UNLV, will be broadcast live in the Fort Collins area on KCSU 90.5 FM.  Nick Sebesta will bring fans all the action from courtside, and will be joined by broadcast partner Ryan Hilbig for home matches.  Fans outside the normal listening area can access streaming audio via the Rams All-Access service on CSURams.com.

Lights, cameras, action
Once again, Colorado State will be among the most televised teams in the Mountain West Conference. The Rams will be televised five times in 2009. Their Sept. 24 home match against New Mexico will be broadcast live on The Mtn., as will a Nov. 12 contest at Utah. The Rams will also appear on The Mtn. on a tape-delay Oct. 22 at TCU, while their Nov. 14 match at BYU will be broadcast live on BYU-TV and re-air Nov. 15 on The Mtn. In addition, the Rams’ match vs. Northern Colorado on Sept. 30 will be appear on Comcast Entertainment Television in Colorado, and will air at 7 p.m. MT on Oct. 2. The UNC match, like the BYU match, will also re-air on The Mtn. on Monday, Oct. 5.

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. In addition, CSU volleyball, and Head Coach Tom Hilbert are both on Twitter at twitter.com/CSUVolleyball and twitter.com/CoachHilbert.  

A quick look at the Rams
Colorado State returns four starters and eight letterwinners from a 2008 team that posted a 23-7 record, finished second in the Mountain West Conference with a 12-4 mark, peaked at No. 12 in the AVCA top 25 poll, and reached the NCAA tournament for the 14th consecutive season.

The Rams were selected to finish second in the Mountain West Conference preseason poll released Aug. 4. Utah, the defending champion, received eight first-place votes and was predicted to finish ahead of the Rams, who earned four first-place votes. New Mexico (3) and BYU (2) also received first-place votes and were selected to finish third and fourth, respectively. TCU, UNLV and San Diego State were slotted fifth through seventh, while Wyoming and Air Force were selected to finish eighth and ninth, respectively, in the MWC standings.

The Rams opened the season with a pair of home losses, their first in 28 consecutive matches at Moby Arena, to Pepperdine and Oregon State, but have bounced back with four straight victories, including a thrilling come-from-behind win in five sets over Ohio State on Sept. 4.

The team suffered a setback to start a four-match road swing in Carolina, falling at Duke, 3-0, on Sept. 9.  However, the Rams rebounded in impressive fashion, notching three consecutive victories over Marshall, Tennessee and North Carolina to win the Carolina Classic volleyball tournament.    

Recapping Week 3:  At Duke and the Carolina Classic
Colorado State headed to North Carolina for four matches in four days, Sept. 9-12, and came home with a 3-1 record and a tournament title.  The Rams opened the week with a disappointing loss against the Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  The Blue Devils stymied the Rams and snapped a four-match winning streak, capturing the 3-1 victory. 

Colorado State bounced back quickly, winning its final three matches of the week and capturing the 2009 Carolina Classic tournament title.  The Rams opened the tournament, hosted in Chapel Hill, N.C. by the UNC Tar Heels, with a sweep of previously undefeated Marshall.  CSU then toppled the Tennessee Lady Vols in four sets, thanks to 18 kills by junior outside hitter Danielle Minch.  CSU closed out the tournament by defeating the host Tar Heels 3-0. 

Three Rams earned all-tournament honors, led by Minch who was selected as the tournament MVP.  Junior outside hitter Jacque Davisson and senior libero Katelin Batten joined Minch on the all-tourney team.  It marked Davisson’s second all-tournament honor in as many weeks, after being named the MVP of the HIlton Classic, hosted by CSU Sept. 3-5. 

About UNLV
UNLV enters Friday’s match vs. Colorado State riding a five-match losing streak.  After opening the season with a loss at No. 8 Florida in the Gator’s Campus USA Credit Union Invitational, the Rebels bounced back to pick up a 3-1 victory over Valparaiso to close out the tournament.  The team then returned home to host the Alexis Park Classic, beginning with a 3-0 loss to No. 9-ranked UCLA,  The Rebels have since dropped four more matches, falling to Idaho (3-1), Loyola Marymount (3-0), UC Santa Barbara (3-0) and Oregon State (3-0). 

The Rebels, who were selected to finish sixth in the Mountain West Conference preseason poll, returned 12 letterwinners and four starters from last season’s team that posted a record of 16-14 and finished tied for fourth in the MWC standings with a record of 9-7.  Head coach Allison Keeley, in her sixth season at UNLV, has a record of 91-63 with the Rebels. 

Sophomore middle blocker Cursty Jackson, the 2008 MWC Freshman of the Year, has emerged as the Rebels’ go-to player, leading the team with an average of 2.52 kills per set.  Senior middle blocker Erin Greenwood ranks just behind Jackson, averaging 2.26 kills per set, and is first on the team with a hitting percentage of .361. 

Friday’s matchup marks the 29th in the series between the Rebels and the Rams, with Colorado State holding a 22-6 advantage all-time.  However, the two teams have split their last 8 matches, and the home team has won each of the last six meetings.  CSU’s last road win in the series  came Sept. 24, 2005, a 3-1 victory.  Since the formation of the Mountain West in 1999, Colorado State is 17-5 against UNLV.   

Rams vs. the MWC
Since the formation of the Mountain West Conference in 1999, the Colorado State volleyball team has proven to be the most successful program in the league.  The Rams have compiled a record of 125-23 (.845) in Mountain West Conference matches, including an impressive 68-6 (.919) mark at Moby Arena vs. the MWC, and a 57-17 (.770) record on the road in league action  The team has averaged 12.5 conference victories per season, and has amassed nine more victories than the next closes program, Utah (116-32).  BYU (107-41) ranks third, followed by UNLV (74-74). 

Freshmen make debuts
Redshirt freshman Brieon Paige, earning her first playing time at CSU and her first start since her senior year of high school, turned in an impressive performance for the Rams against UT Arlington on Sept. 5.  Paige recorded eight kills while hitting .500 for the match, and adding four blocks in her collegiate debut. 

Freshman middle blocker Tori Brummett also made her collegiate debut for the Rams in the Hilton Classic, earning a start against Georgia Southern on Sept. 3.  Brummett notched four kills and two assisted blocks to help the Rams to a 3-0 victory over the Eagles.

More fresh faces
Freshmen Izzy Gaulia, a defensive specialist from Glendale, Ariz., and Dana Cranston, an outside hitter from Fort St. John, B.C., have both made tremendous impacts on the Rams early in the season.  Gaulia has appeared in seven of the Rams’ 10 matches, and is averaging 1.5 digs per set.  Cranston has appeared in each of the Rams’ matches, showing off her all-around skill by averaging 0.81 kills, 0.60 assists, 1.63 digs and 0.5 blocks per set. 

Redshirt freshman Megan Plourde, who was granted a medial hardship waiver after appearing in five sets in 2008, leads the freshmen class with 41 kills and .260 hitting percentage. Plourde recorded a career high with nine kills and hitting .462 against North Carolina on Sept. 12. Plourde also led the Rams with seven blocks against Duke.

Junior class
Juniors Danielle Minch and Jacque Davisson have been a force to be reckoned with so far this season, and both were selected for Carolina Classic all-tournament team, with Minch earning MVP honors. Davisson was also named all-tournament team at Asics/Coors Classic (MVP) and Hilton Classic.  The third-year players rank 1-2 in kills for the Rams, each eclipsing 100 kills through 10 matches this season. Minch ranks first with 125 total kills and is second in the MWC with an average of 3.68 kills per set.  Davisson ranks seventh in the MWC, averaging 2.94 kills per set.  They are the only Rams to have consecutive double-figure kill matches this season with Davisson currently riding a streak of five consecutive matches, and Minch on a six-match run. Davisson has also notched three double-doubles on the season, including two in  a row vs. Marshall (11 kills, 11 digs) and Tennessee (11 kills, 15 digs) at the Carolina Classic, Sept. 11-12. 

Setting the pace
To start the 2009 season, Evan Sanders was charged with the daunting task of replacing two-time MWC Setter of the Year Ashley Fornstrom in the Rams’ lineup.  The sophomore setter from Lafayette, Colo., has not disappointed.  Sanders ranks fourth in the MWC, averaging 9.56 assists per set, having amassed 325 entering this week’s action at UNLV.  She has also recorded nine consecutive matches with 30-plus assists, after notching just 23 in the Rams’ season-opening loss to Pepperdine.  Sanders also ranks second on the team with 85 digs through 10 matches, and has recorded four matches with double-figure digs.

Moby Madness
Over the years, Moby Arena has provided one of the most effective home-court advantages in the NCAA for the CSU volleyball program.  Entering the 2009 season, CSU had won 28 consecutive home matches at Moby Arena, and prior to the Aug. 28-29 losses to Pepperdine and Oregon State, the Rams had not lost back-to-back home matches since suffering back-to-back losses to nationally ranked foes from BYU (#20) and Utah (#9) in the final two matches of the 2006 regular season.  Under Head Coach Tom Hilbert, the Rams are 174-23 (.883) in Moby Arena.  Since Coach Hilbert’s arrival in 1997, CSU has also played 32 ranked opponents in Moby Arena, coming away with victories in 22 of those matches, including four consecutive victories over ranked opponents at Moby dating back to a 3-0 win over No. 13 Ohio State on Aug. 30, 2007.

Double Trouble
Sophomore setter Evan Sanders recorded her first-career double-double with 32 assists and 10 digs against Oregon State on Aug. 29.  Sanders joins junior outside hitter Jacque Davisson and senior middle blocker Tessa Nelson as active Rams with double-doubles in their careers. 

Can you dig it?
Senior libero Katelin Batten entered the 2009 season as the Rams’ all-time leader in both digs and digs per set. Through three seasons, Batten had recorded 1,304 digs, 63 more than the previous record held by Carrie Appleman (1989-92). Batten’s career digs per set average of 3.90 also ranks atop the Rams’ record book.  With a team-best 141 digs on the season, third in the MWC at 3.15 digs per set, Batten has become the only active  player currently in the top 10 of the MWC career digs list, where she ranks fifth with 1,445 career digs. Averaging 435 digs per season, Batten is on pace to reach as high as third on the MWC list.  UNLV’s Jada Walker (2004-07) ranks first with 2,055 career digs.

Full Nelson
Senior middle blocker Tessa Nelson is the Rams’ lone returning all-Mountain West player from last season. Nelson, who ranked third on the team in points scored against MWC opponents in 2008, behind departed seniors Mekana Barnes and Jaime Strauss, and was also selected as the 2009 Mountain West Conference preseason co-Player of the Year, along with New Mexico’s junior setter Jade Michaelsen.  Nelson ranked 46th nationally with 1.18 blocks per set as a junior in 2008.  Needing just one block to reach 400 for her career, Nelson notched 10 during the Hilton Classic, Sept. 3-5, becoming just the 10th player in CSU history to record 400 career blocks.  She enters Friday’s match at UNLV with 427 career blocks. 

Ace in the hole
Entering this season with 11 service aces to her credit, and with the Rams having been held without a single ace in their first two matches, junior outside hitter Danielle Minch recorded three aces in the CSU victory over Cal Poly on Aug. 30.  It capped a strong performance for Minch, who recorded team bests with 15 kills and a .414 hitting percentage, plus five assisted blocks against the Mustangs.  Overall, Minch led the Rams with 32 kills and ranked second on the team, behind Tessa Nelson, with eight total blocks through the Rams’ first three matches.   

Home away from home
While Colorado State has anually ranks among the national leaders in terms of home wins, including back-to-back undefeated seasons of 14-0 in 2007 and 2008,  CSU has also faired well on the road since Head Coach Tom Hilbert’s arrival in Fort Collins in 1997.  Overall, Colorado State is 140-59 (.704) away from Moby Arena under Hilbert’s guidance, including last week’s 3-1 showing during a tough road swing in North Carolina.   

Closing in on 500
Colorado State Head Coach Tom Hilbert enters play this week just 12 wins shy of 500 for his career. Last season, Hilbert became the winingest coach in CSU annals when he surpassed Rich Feller with his 300th victory at Colorado State. To date, Hilbert has 314 victories at the helm of the CSU program.

Poll position
The Colorado State volleyball team opened the 2009 season ranked No. 24 nationally in the AVCA coaches top 25 preseason poll released Aug. 18. It marked the second consecutive season that Colorado State has appeared in the preseason top 25. Colorado State was ranked in the AVCA poll for 17 consecutive weeks, before falling out of the top 25 in the Sept. 1 poll.  The Rams are receiving votes in the latest poll released on Monday. 

Rams in the rankings
The Rams will look to build upon their reputation as one of the nation’s top blocking teams once again in 2009. Colorado State ended the 2008 season ranked fourth nationally, averaging 2.97 blocks per set, and was fifth at the end of the 2007 season with an average of 3.54 blocks per set. Senior middle blocker Tessa Nelson is the Rams’ leading returner in blocks. As a junior in 2008, she ranked 46th nationally averaging 1.16 blocks per set. Sophomore Katelyn Steffan also appeared in the national rankings, coming in at 304 with an average of 0.82 blocks per set.

Nelson and Steffan were also nationally ranked for hitting percentage in 2008. Nelson finished 118th with a hitting percentage of .313, while Steffan’s .259 hitting percentage ranked as No. 301.

Junior outside hitter Jacque Davisson also closed the 2008 season in the national rankings. Davisson, who notched 28 service aces in 93 sets played, ranked 205th with an average of 0.3 aces per set.

Recapping Week 1:  The Asics/Coors Classic
Colorado State opened the season by posting a record of 1-2 at the Asics/Coors Classic at Moby Arena. The Rams rebounded from back-to-back home losses to Pepperdine, 3-0,  and Oregon State, 3-0, closing the tournament with an impressive 3-0 win over the Cal Poly Mustangs. 

Pepperdine captured the tournament championship with a perfect 3-0 record that included sweeps of CSU and Cal Poly, and a 3-1 victory over Oregon State.  The Beavers finished second with an overall record 2-1.  The Rams took home third place, while Cal Poly finished 0-3 on the weekend to finish last in the field. 

Colorado State junior outside hitter Jacque Davisson was selected to the Asics/Coors Classic all-tournament team, along with Oregon State’s Rachel Rourke and Jill Sawatzky, and Pepperdine’s Rachel Grochmal, Lilla Frederick, and tournament MVP Kiah Fiers.

Recapping Week 2:  The Hilton Classic
The Colorado State volleyball team racked up three victories, running its winning streak to four matches, and took home the title at the 2009 Hilton Classic.  Behind the strong play of junior outside hitters Jacque Davisson and Danielle Minch, and senior middle blocker Tessa  Nelson, all of whom earned all-tourney honors (Davisson, MVP), the Rams picked up dominant three-set sweeps  over Georgia Southern and UT Arlington, and a thrilling five-set, come-from-behind victory against Big Ten foe Ohio State. 

Ticket information
Season tickets are on sale now, and start at just $75 for adult general admission. Single-match tickets begin at just $6 for adults and $4 for youth (ages 3-17). Mini-plans, including the Pick 5 Plan and the Pepsi 4-Pack, are also available for purchase.

More information on volleyball tickets is available by visiting CSURams.com, calling 1-800/491-RAMS or stopping by the CSU athletic ticket office at the McGraw Athletic Center between 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday-Friday.



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