Volleyball Match Notes: No. 12 CSU returns to Moby Arena still undefeated

The No. 12 Colorado State volleyball team returns to Moby Arena this week for a pair of Mountain West matches against Fresno State and San José State.

The No. 12 Colorado State volleyball team returns to Moby Arena this week for a pair of Mountain West matches against Fresno State and San José State.

Oct. 22, 2013

CSU Match Notes #11 | Fresno State Notes | San José Notes | Tickets
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Match 18: No. 12 Colorado State vs. Fresno State

Thursday, Oct. 24 | 7 p.m. MT | Moby Arena

Match 19: No. 12 Colorado State vs. San José State
Saturday, Oct. 26 | 1 p.m. MT | Moby Arena

SCOUTING FRESNO STATE
The Fresno State Bulldogs come into town to take on the No. 12 Colorado State Rams as hot as any team in the Mountain West. The Bulldogs have a 12-8 record on the year and are 6-2 in conference play. However, Fresno State has won each of its last five matches to tie UNLV for second place in the MW standings. The match against the Rams will be the first of four consecutive road matches for Fresno State, which is 3-1 on the road this year.

Fresno State provides one of the toughest serving teams that the Rams will face all season. The Bulldogs rank second in the Mountain West with 1.28 service aces per set. Along with its tough serving, Fresno State ranks third in the conference with 13.34 kills per set and is fifth with a .211 hitting percentage.

The Bulldogs are led by senior outside hitter Korrin Wild. With 3.76 kills per set and 4.24 points per set, Wild ranks second in the MW in both categories. The senior outside hitter is also third in the conference with 0.32 service aces per set. Last year, in a five-set win vs. CSU, Wild had 23 kills on .458 hitting.

On defense, Fresno State is led by its freshman libero, Maggie Eppright, who leads the team with 3.34 digs per set (10th in MW). At the net, junior middle blocker Maci Murdock paces the team with 0.91 blocks per set.

SERIES VS. THE BULLDOGS
The Rams are 6-9 all-time against the Bulldogs with a 4-2 record at Moby Arena. Under Head Coach Tom Hilbert, CSU is 2-1. After a 15-year break, the two programs picked up its series last year, with both teams winning on their home court.

In two matches against Fresno State last year, junior setter Deedra Foss averaged 11.00 assists, 1.89 digs and 0.78 blocks pet, as the Rams hit a combined .299 in the two matches.

SCOUTING SAN JOSÉ STATE
The San José State Spartans enter this week with a 5-14 record on the year, and 2-6 in Mountain West play. The Spartans have struggled this year when they have played away from home, winning just one of their seven road matches so far this season. The Spartans will play Wyoming on Thursday prior to facing the Rams.

As a team, San José State averages 13.04 kills, 14.95 digs and 2.20 blocks per set.

The Spartans are led by senior outside hitter Hanah Blume. With 3.67 kills per set, Blume ranks third in the conference in kills, and is fourth with 4.01 points per set. The dynamic attacker also provides versatility for the Spartans, ranking ninth in the MW and second on the team with 3.40 digs per set.

San José State also gets key contributions from junior middle blocker Mary Alice O'Reilly. O'Reilly is second on the team with 2.81 kills per set, and leads the team with 1.10 blocks per set, placing her just outside of the top 10 in the conference.

At the net, sophomore setter Michaela Leonard paces San José State's offense. Leonard currently ranks second in the conference, and No. 23 in the nation, with 11.18 assists per set, trailing only CSU's Deedra Foss.

In the back row, junior libero Kiely Peiper pairs with Blume to provide a boost for the Spartans' defense. The junior leads the team and ranks ninth in the MW with 3.44 digs per set.

SERIES VS. THE SPARTANS
Overall, CSU is 6-4 against San José State, and is 3-0 all-time against the Spartans while playing at Moby Arena. After dropping the first three matches in the series, CSU has won six of the past seven matches. The two programs have not played each other since 1998, when San José State won a neutral-court match in five sets. The Rams are 2-1 against the Spartans under Head Coach Tom Hilbert.

RAMS IN TRAINING
Children will have a rare opportunity to learn from members of the nationally ranked CSU volleyball program through Rams in Training. Following Saturday's afternoon match vs. the Spartans, children ages 6-12 can take part in a free hour-long clinic on the Moby Arena court. Participants will be taught by the Rams players. While the clinic is free, it is open to just 100 children, and parents must register their child online.

STARTING HOT
With 17 straight wins, CSU is tied for its second-best start in program history, and best in more than a decade. The program's best-ever start came in 2001, when the squad won its first 20 contests before suffering its initial 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.

FIFTEEN IN A ROW
Not only are the Rams off to their best start since 2001, but the team's 17-match winning streak is the program's longest since also winning 17 straight from Sept. 1-Nov. 19, 1999. Two victories this week would tie for the third-longest winning streak in program annals.

Excluding the Rams' NCAA tournament loss to No. 22 Purdue, they haven't lost a regular-season contest since Oct. 25, 2012, a span of 25 consecutive victories.

GETTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT
Winners of four straight Mountain West championships, CSU began its conference-title defense on Sept. 18 by sweeping Wyoming in three tight sets. The Rams have won 17 consecutive conference home openers, dating back to 1997, Head Coach Tom Hilbert's first at the helm of the Rams.

Currently the only unbeaten team in the conference, CSU has won its first eight MW matches for the sixth time in 15 seasons in the league. Just three other times has CSU won its first 10 matches, which the Rams can do with two wins this week.

REMAINING UNDEFEATED
Entering the ninth week of the season, CSU is one of two Division I teams to have yet to lose a match, joining Missouri. While this is tied for the second-best start to a season in terms of wins, it is the second-longest in terms of date on the calendar. The latest CSU has gone without losing a match was Nov. 3, in 2001.

STEADY IN THE POLL
Despite a pair of road wins against two of the top teams in the Mountain West, the Rams stayed put at No. 12 in this week's AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 poll. CSU jumped ahead of Nebraska, but was passed by Missouri, the only other undefeated team in the country. Prior to this year, the last time CSU was ranked this high was during the Sept. 29, 2008 poll, in which the Rams were also ranked No. 12 after an 11-1 start to the season.

After a 17-0 start to the season, the Rams have steadily climbed the poll each week, receiving votes the first three weeks before cracking the top 25 in mid-September. All-time, just 14 teams have been ranked more frequently than CSU, which has been voted into the top-25 poll 241 times in its history. CSU is 418-125 all-time as a ranked team, including 236-28 at Moby Arena.

ROAD WARRIORS
The Rams made history last Saturday, defeating San Diego State to win their 12th consecutive true road match, a program record. The streak began on Oct. 27, 2012, at Nevada.

It took the Rams six tries to get their first win away from Moby Arena in 2012, finally posting one at UNLV on Oct. 14, in front of a national TV audience. However, the Rams finished strong, winning their final five down the stretch, and have opened up 2013 with seven true road wins in five tries -- in addition to two neutral-court wins in Malibu, Calif., which are not included in the true road wins figure.

FILLING UP THE GYM
Always known as one of the loudest gyms in the entire country, CSU's Moby Arena currently ranks eighth nationally, averaging 3,147 fans per contest. The average would be the highest in program history if the season ended today. Currently, the program's best attendance average came in 2001, when the Rams averaged 2,846 fans per match. In all, CSU has brought in an average of more than 2,000 fans eight seasons, including each of the last three. CSU set a season high with 4,801 fans in its most-recent home match (vs. Boise State on Oct. 12), the 10th-largest attendance figure in program history.

AMONG THE BEST IN THE NATION
As one of the top teams in the country, CSU is also putting up some of the top numbers in the country. The Rams continue to move up in several team and individual categories in the latest NCAA statistical report, released Monday.

CSU is one of the most potent offenses in the country, ranking in the top 10 in both kills and hitting percentage. Additionally, the Rams have risen to No. 7 in blocks per set. CSU and Stanford are the only two teams in the country to rank in the top 10 in kills, hitting percentage and blocks. The Rams also rank in the top 20 in assists (17), with setter Deedra Foss ranking seventh. Samantha Peters is one of nine players nationally to rank in the top 30 in both hitting percentage and blocks. She moved up 31 spots this past week after averaging 2.22 blocks per set in two matches.

ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN
Head Coach Tom Hilbert was pleased to see the success his team had in non-conference play, going a perfect 9-0. However, he has stressed repeatedly that the importance of those matches was to prepare his team for its 20-match Mountain West slate, which began on Sept. 18, a 3-0 win vs. Wyoming.

"We want to win the Mountain West," Hilbert said. "I think everything leading up to conference play was just that. We know that by winning the Mountain West we will go to the NCAA tournament."

In 14 seasons with the Mountain West, CSU has led the charge by a large margin, winning 10 regular-season conference championships in addition to five MW tournament titles in nine seasons. CSU has finished first in the regular-season standings each of the past four years, leading wire-to-wire from 2009-11.

Entering action this week, CSU has won 13 straight MW matches overall, including 19 in a row at home and nine straight on the road. The Rams haven't lost a MW match at home since 2010, and haven't lost at home to a current member of the league since 2005, 48 straight victories. CSU currently holds a two-match lead in the standings, ahead of Fresno State and UNLV, which both are 6-2 and tied for second.

EFFICIENT ATTACKING
CSU leads the Mountain West and ranks seventh in the nation with a .293 attack percentage. In the season opener vs. Baylor, CSU posted a hitting percentage of .529 (53-7-87), good for fifth-best in program history. Eight times in the young season CSU has hit above .300, including four matches in a row from Sept. 7-11. Three of the figures rank in the top-10 in the MW this season.

"We're a young team, but we're playing with more maturity as an attacking team than we did all last year, without a doubt," Head Coach Tom Hilbert said after CSU's win vs. Missouri State on Sept. 11. "Our error percentage has been really, really good; if the season ended right now this might be the most clean we've played ever."

In addition to high attacking numbers, CSU ranks second in the MW in opponent hitting percentage, holding its opponents to .157 hitting, including under .100 five times -- including the team's two most-recent home matches. No team has hit better than .250 against CSU, and the Rams have been out-hit just once this season, but still earned the victory (at New Mexico on Sept. 28).

In 1987, CSU hit .800 (45-5-50) in a win at Loyola Marymount. The percentage is not only a CSU record, but still stands as an NCAA record 26 years later.

BALANCED ATTACK
Not only are the Rams attacking with great efficiency and at a high rate, but they're also receiving a balanced attack. Despite ranking No. 8 nationally in kills, CSU's leading attacker (Marlee Reynolds, 3.06 kills per set) ranks No. 8 in the Mountain West, and no players rank in the top 250 in the nation for kills. Five different Rams have led the team in kills in a match, with all five averaging at least 2.39 kills per set.

The biggest question entering fall camp -- and even entering the season -- was who would step up on the outside to replace last year's top three attackers, who all graduated.

"I knew our middle attacking would be good this year," Head Coach Tom Hilbert said, "but we're having some players step up and become some pretty solid attackers. We're really playing as a team. There are no egos. Each night, someone steps up."

END-GAME SUCCESS
Perhaps the biggest reason for the early success is the team's ability to win close sets. Through 17 matches, 28 sets have been decided by five points or fewer; of those, the Rams have won 23. In sets decided by three points or fewer, CSU is 12-4, and in two-point sets the Rams are 8-3.

Against Utah State on Oct. 10, CSU trailed all of Set 2 until 23-22. After the Aggies tied the score at 23-23, CSU took the next two points, closing the set on a 5-1 run to win a crucial third set. Against Wyoming on Sept. 18, the Rams and Cowgirls were tied at 20-20 each set -- including 23-23 in Set 1 and 22-22 in Set 2. The Rams ended each set with a run, however, to win all three. In a five-set win at New Mexico on Sept. 28, CSU won sets by scores of 27-25 and 15-13.

SETTING THE WAY
With two stellar seasons already under her belt and on pace to shatter her career high for assists in a season, All-MW Preseason Team selection Deedra Foss is putting herself in rare company. After being named the Mountain West Newcomer of the Year in 2011, Foss was selected to the All-MW team as a sophomore. She already ranks eighth in school history with 2,989 career assists, and is on pace to pass Robin Wilson (3,033) for seventh.

Entering her junior season, Foss was one of eight players in program history to register at least 1,100 assists in back-to-back seasons, and one of just six players to record at least 1,100 assists, 225 digs and 145 points in a single season. Foss joins Ashley Fornstrom as CSU's only setters to average10.50 assists, 2.10 digs and 0.85 blocks per set in two consecutive seasons.

On the year, she ranks first on the team in assists, third in digs and blocks, fourth in aces, and eighth in kills. She leads setters in the MW in both assists and blocks, and ranks second in aces.

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