Volleyball Match Notes: No. 9 CSU puts undefeated mark to test on road

The No. 9 Colorado State Rams look to remain undefeated and extend on their program-best 12-match true road winning streak this weekend at Boise State and Utah State.

The No. 9 Colorado State Rams look to remain undefeated and extend on their program-best 12-match true road winning streak this weekend at Boise State and Utah State.

Oct. 29, 2013

CSU Match Notes #12 | Boise State Notes | Utah State Notes
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Match 20: No. 9 Colorado State at Boise State

Thursday, Oct. 31 | 7 p.m. MT | Bronco Gym

Match 21: No. 9 Colorado State at Utah State
Saturday, Nov. 2 | 7:30 p.m. MT | Dee Glen Smith Spectrum

SCOUTING BOISE STATE
Boise State will host the No. 9 Colorado State Rams with a 10-11 record overall, including 4-7 in Mountain West play. The Broncos are 4-5 at home, and are looking to avenge consecutive home losses to UNLV and San Diego State last week.

Boise State is led by junior outside hitter Alyssa Gammel. One of four players to average at least 2.00 kills per set, Gammel leads the team in kills (2.69) and is second in points (3.07). Sarah Horton (2.67), Taylor Murphy (2.28) and Brittany Reardon (2.00) balance out the quick Boise State attack.

The Broncos utilize two setters in their system, making them a unique opponent to scout. Senior setter Casey Rose averages 5.68 assists per set, while sophomore Sarah Baugh averages 5.26. Boise State's unique offense has been effective this year, as the team ranks sixth in the MW in kills (13.11 per set) and second in hitting percentage (.239), only behind CSU.

Defensively, the Broncos are led by junior middle blocker Aly Duffin's 0.81 blocks per set and freshman libero Hannah Hubbard's 3.63 digs per set.

SERIES VS. THE BRONCOS
The Rams have been dominant against Boise State, and boast a 7-0 all-time record in the series. CSU is 2-0 in Boise, and has yet to drop a set in any of the seven matches against its MW foe. The Rams are 3-0 while playing as a ranked team.

In their matchup earlier this season, the Rams swept the Broncos at Moby Arena, limiting Boise State to just .020 hitting. While Boise State struggled to get anything going on offense, the Rams' offense was clicking on all cylinders, hitting .393 in the match.

In five career matches against Boise State, junior setter Deedra Foss has enjoyed plenty of success. Foss has averaged 11.17 assists, 2.17 digs and 0.88 blocks per set. Even more impressive, she has led the Rams to efficient offensive numbers, including a .396 hitting percentage over the five matches. In each of those five contests, CSU has hit at least .374 against Boise State.

SCOUTING UTAH STATE
Playing in its first season in the Mountain West, the Aggies enter this week with a 14-7 overall record, including a 7-3 mark in conference play (Utah State will host Wyoming on Thursday prior to the matchup against the Rams). The Aggies won the Western Athletic Conference regular-season title last year, and are in the hunt for a second consecutive conference crown, currently tied with three other teams for second place. It marks the third week in a row that CSU has faced a MW team ranked second in the conference at the time. After falling to CSU on Oct. 10, Utah State was won five consecutive matches.

At home, Utah State has been incredibly difficult to deal with. The Aggies are 4-1 at home this year, including impressive victories over San Diego State and UNLV. last week Utah State's lone home loss came to New Mexico.

The Aggies are led by junior outside hitter Rachel Orr. After earning All-WAC honors last year as a sophomore, Orr has continued her dynamic play for the Aggies in 2013. She leads the team with 3.37 kills and 3.87 points per set, which both rank sixth in the conference. The Aggies also have two other players, Elle Brainard and Tumua Etimani, averaging at least 2.65 kills per set to provide a balanced attack.

Junior setter Paige Neeves paces the offense with 10.45 assists per set, which ranks fifth in the MW. She also leads the team with 0.28 service aces per set. On defense, the Aggies rank third in the MW in opponent hitting percentage (.178) and fourth in blocks (2.68 per set).

Leading the way on defense are middle blockers Alyssa Everett and Kaitlyn VanHoff. VanHoff leads the team and is fourth in the conference with 1.29 blocks per set while Everett ranks fifth with 1.25 blocks per set, giving the Aggies a formidable duo defending the net, and the only set of teammates to rank in the top five in the MW. In the back row, junior libero Ashlan Rogers-Court is fourth in the conference with 4.06 digs per set, while three other Aggies average at least 2.38 digs per set.

SERIES VS. THE AGGIES
Overall, CSU is 18-14 against Utah State, holding a 6-5 advantage while playing in Logan, Utah. After losing the first 11 matches in the series, and 14 of the first 15, CSU has now won 17 matches in a row dating back to 1983. The Rams are 10-0 all-time against Utah State while being ranked..

In their matchup earlier this season, the Rams defeated Utah State in four sets at Moby Arena. In a defensive battle in which CSU registered 16.5 blocks and held the Aggies to .099 hitting, senior middle blocker Samantha Peters had 11 kills and eight blocks. Sophomore libero Jaime Colaizzi held down the back row and had a team-best 21 digs. However, Utah State limited CSU to a season-low .179 hitting and is still the only team to win a set against CSU at Moby Arena this season.

STARTING HOT

With 19 straight wins, CSU is off to the second-best start in program history, and the best in more than a decade. The Rams' 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.

A win Thursday at Boise State would tie the program mark, and a win Saturday as well would set a new record.

NINETEEN IN A ROW
Not only are the Rams off to their best start since 2001, but the team's 19-match winning streak is the program's longest since also winning 19 straight from Sept. 1-Nov. 19, 1999, and tied for the third-longest ever. A victory Thursday would tie for second (2001), and a pair of victories this weekend would be just two shy of the program mark (23), which was set in 2003.

Excluding the Rams' NCAA tournament loss to No. 22 Purdue last season, they haven't lost a regular-season contest since Oct. 25, 2012, a span of 27 consecutive victories.

REMAINING UNDEFEATED
Entering the 10th week of the season, CSU is one of two Division I teams to have yet to lose a match, joining Missouri. While this is the second-best start to a season in terms of wins, it is also the second-longest in terms of date on the calendar. The latest CSU has gone without losing a match was Nov. 3, in 2001.

CSU has never been the only unbeaten team in the NCAA. In 2001, when the Rams were 20-0 in November, Long Beach State was the only other ranked undefeated team. That year, the 49ers went 33-1, with their only loss coming to Stanford in the national championship. In 1999, CSU was one of three ranked unbeaten teams before losing at UNLV on Oct. 16. Hawai'i (finished 29-2, Sweet 16) and Northern Iowa (30-1, Sweet 16) were the other undefeated teams at that point.

MOVIN' ON UP
With two wins last week, the undefeated Colorado State Rams are again on the rise, moving into the top 10 of the AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll for the first time in nine years. Coaches selected CSU No. 9 in the nation, jumping ahead of Minnesota, Hawai'i and Michigan State. It is CSU's first time ranked in the top 10 since the Nov. 29, 2004 poll, when the Rams entered the NCAA tournament ranked No. 9 with a 26-3 record.

"We're in this position because we're undefeated," Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. "We have to stay humble and go win the next match. There is no selfishness on this team. No one feels like they have to prove something, they just go out and play great volleyball. That's how we need to continue to play."

While it has been nearly a decade since CSU was in the top 10, the program has a strong history of being among the best in the nation. CSU has been ranked more frequently than all but 14 teams in NCAA history, and earned a spot in the top 10 for the 59th total time on Monday, a number that ranks 19th among all programs. All-time, CSU is 418-125 as a ranked team, including 113-23 while in the top 10. The Rams' highest-ever ranking is No. 3, in 2000.

The Rams began the season receiving 15 points in the preseason poll, good for 38th. With each win, however, the team has continued to climb the rankings, cracking the top 25 for the first time on Sept. 16.

ROAD WARRIORS
The Rams made history on Oct. 19, 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 seven tries -- in addition to two neutral-court wins in Malibu, Calif., which are not included in the true road wins figure.

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.

At the halfway point, CSU is currently three wins ahead of the four teams tied for second place in the Mountain West standings, It is the sixth time in the league's 15-year history that CSU has gone undefeated through the first half of the MW slate. CSU has won its first 10 MW matches for the fourth time. Just twice has a CSU team won its first 11 MW matches, and the 2003 team is the only team to win more than 11. That year, the Rams went a perfect 14-0 in conference play.

RELOADING, NOT REBUILDING
The Rams' 19-0 start is remarkable, but making it more impressive is how it has happened. Head Coach Tom Hilbert should be the favorite to win his ninth Mountain West Coach of the Year award and in contention for a second AVCA Region Coach of the Year honor in three seasons after transforming the 2013 squad from a rebuilding year to a reloading year. The Rams are on pace for one of their best-ever seasons despite losing much of their production from last year's MW championship team which went 21-8.

  • CSU lost five players, including four of its starters. All four were All-MW selections during their career and two were AVCA All-Americans.
  • CSU graduated 57.11 percent of its offense from a year ago, including the team's top three attackers.
  • CSU graduated 48.18 percent of its service aces, including the top three averages.
  • CSU graduated 48.37 percent of its digs, including its starting libero.
  • CSU graduated 60.98 percent of its blocks, including three of the top four blockers. Megan Plourde finished her career as the second-best blocker in program history, and ranked in the top 10 in the NCAA from 2010-12.
  • Of CSU's starters this season, just one was starting in their current position a year ago.

20 WINS ONCE AGAIN
CSU's next victory will be its 20th of the season, a mark the Rams have reached in each of the last 18 seasons since 1995. Nebraska (38 entering 2013), Penn State (36), Florida (22) and Hawai'i (19) are the only teams to have a longer streak than CSU.  

CLOSING IN ON NO. 600
Considered one of the most successful volleyball coaches in the nation, Head Coach Tom Hilbert is just four wins shy of yet another milestone victory: No. 600. Less than a year after celebrating his 400th career win at CSU, Hilbert is on the verge of becoming the 17th active coach to reach 600 career wins. Of those currently at 600, none have coached as few of games as Hilbert, and his current .772 winning percentage would rank ninth in NCAA volleyball history among coaches with at least 600 wins.

THE HILBERT FACTOR

  • Record at CSU: 422-104 (.802) - winningest coach in any sport at CSU.
  • Career record: 596-176 - 17th among active coaches in wins.
  • Career winning percentage: .771 - 11th among active coaches; 15th among all coaches all-time.
  • 16 NCAA tournaments in 16 years in Fort Collins.
  • 236-28 (.894) record at Moby Arena, including 25-12 against ranked opponents.
  • 40 total wins against top-25 teams at CSU, including No. 1 UCLA in 2000.
  • 13 conference coach-of-the-year awards, in addition to three AVCA region coach-of-the-year-honors.

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 3,027 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 on Oct. 12 (3-0 win vs. Boise State) 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. 9 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 high in assists (22nd), with setter Deedra Foss ranking sixth. Samantha Peters is one of four players nationally to average at least 1.41 blocks per set while hitting above .400.

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.

"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 15 straight MW matches overall, including 21 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, a span of 50 straight victories. All-time, the Rams have won more than 85 percent of their MW matches (189-31, .859 winning percentage), far greater than any current or former opponent. They hold impressive numbers both at home (103-7, .936 winning percentage) and on the road (86-24, .782).

EYEING A FIVE-PEAT
Colorado State closed 2012 by winning its final eight regular-season matches, and on the last night of the season, in front of a home crowd, CSU defeated New Mexico to earn a share of the Mountain West regular-season title. CSU earned the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament after winning the tiebreaker over San Diego State, which also finished 13-3 in league play in 2012.

It marked the fourth consecutive season that CSU has won the MW title. The Rams hope to embark upon uncharted territories in 2013. Just one other time (2000-04) has CSU won five consecutive regular-season titles.

Entering 2013, just three other schools have won their respective conference title in each of the last four seasons (Albany, 5, America East; Dayton, 4, Atlantic 10; and Hawai'i, 18, Big West in 1995 and 2012, WAC from 1996-11). Of those teams, CSU is the only team currently leading its conference.

CSU currently holds a three-match lead in the standings, ahead of Fresno State, UNLV, New Mexico and Utah State, which all are 7-3 and tied for second.

LEADING THE LEAGUE
Nine weeks into the season, the Rams are undefeated in conference play and are leading the Mountain West in four of seven statistical categories, and rank in the top four in six. Deedra Foss and Samantha Peters rank first in the MW in assists and hitting percentage, respectively, and several other Rams rank among the top 10, including Kaitlind Bestgen, who ranks third in service aces. Additionally, middle blockers Peters and Kelsey Snider are two of four players in the conference to rank in the top 10 in both hitting percentage and blocks, and the only set of teammates. For a complete listing, see Page 11 of the PDF.

EFFICIENT ATTACKING
CSU leads the Mountain West and ranks sixth in the nation with a .298 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. Nine times in the young season CSU has hit above .300, including four matches in a row from Sept. 7-11. Four 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 fact, at a .298 clip, it would tie for the second-highest efficiency in CSU annals, tied with 2000 and trailing only 2001 (.314). The team is on pace to make just 465 attack errors, second-lowest ever.

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 single-match record 26 years later.

DEFENDING THE ATTACK
In addition to high attacking numbers, CSU ranks second in the MW in opponent hitting percentage, holding its opponents to .154 hitting, including under .100 six times -- including three of the four 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).

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. 10 nationally in kills, CSU's leading attacker (Marlee Reynolds, 3.12 kills per set) ranks No. 7 in the Mountain West, and no players rank in the top 175 in the nation for kills (the NCAA does not release further than 175). Five different Rams have led the team in kills in a match, with all five averaging at least 2.40 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."

Sophomore Adrianna Culbert has been the answer on the right side, while Reynolds, a junior, and Michelle Lawrence, a freshman, have played consistently on the left. Lawrence has missed the past three matches due to an ankle injury, however, with sophomore Kaila Thomas stepping up and making an impact in two of the matches.

BLOCK PARTY
After graduating All-American Megan Plourde, the program's second-best blocker and NCAA leader in 2011, it looked as if CSU may lack on the defensive side at the net in 2013. In fact, early in the season, that was the key emphasis that Head Coach Tom Hilbert said his team needed to improve on. CSU has gotten significantly better throughout the year, however, posting double-digit block totals in 10 of its last 12 matches, and trailing its opponents in blocking just three times on the season.

The Rams lead the Mountain West in blocks per set and rank ninth nationally. Senior Samantha Peters is the Rams' top blocker, averaging 1.41 per set, good for 16th nationally. Over the last decade, CSU has ranked in the top 25 in the NCAA nine times, including the top 10 five times and top five on four occasions. In 2012, CSU ranked No. 15. If Peters can remain in the top 20, it will mark the sixth time in seven seasons that a player has ranked in the top 20 (Mekana Barnes: fifth in 2007 and `08; Megan Plourde: second in 2010, first in 2011 and eighth in 2012).

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. On Saturday, she moved into seventh place in CSU history, with 3,058 assists. She is now just 136 assists away from passing Ginger Kidd (1991-93) for sixth.

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. Foss currently is sixth in the NCAA in assists per set. She would be the first Ram to rank in the top 10 in assists since Ashley Fornstrom in 2007.

END-GAME SUCCESS
Perhaps the biggest reason for the early success is the team's ability to win close sets. Through 19 matches, 30 sets have been decided by five points or fewer; of those, the Rams have won 25. In sets decided by three points or fewer, CSU is 13-4, and in two-point sets the Rams are 9-3.

Trailing Fresno State 19-11 in Set 3 on Oct. 26, CSU went on a 9-0 run to gain a 20-19 advantage, and held on to win the set, 25-23. Other examples include:

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. In a five-set win at New Mexico on Sept. 28, CSU won sets by scores of 27-25 and 15-13. 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.

HOW SWEEP IT IS
For the third consecutive season, CSU not only won its first three matches, but did so in straight sets each time. It marked just the sixth time in program history that the Rams won their first nine sets to a season.

After four 3-1 road victories, the Rams swept four straight matches (Sept. 11-26) and won 17 consecutive sets until dropping Set 3 at New Mexico on Sept. 28. It was CSU's longest set winning streak since earning 24 straight sets in 2011.

The Rams have earned 10 sweeps on the season, and have won 30 of 31 sets at Moby Arena.

SERVING UP ACES
Fort Collins native Kaitlind Bestgen ranks third in the Mountain West with 0.31 service aces per set, including five vs. Virginia (Sept. 6) and four at Air Force (Sept. 26)  -- on both instances, Bestgen had four aces during runs of at least seven points. Her five-ace match against the Cavaliers marked just the third time since 2009 that a Ram has had five aces in a match, and as a team, CSU's 11 aces was the most since November 2011.

In addition to Bestgen, Adrianna Culbert, Cassidy Denny and Deedra Foss each are averaging at least 0.22 aces per set, which are among the top 15 in the MW. As a team, CSU ranks fourth in the MW in aces per set.

DIGGIN' `EM ALL
While the Rams rank relatively low in digs per set (8th in the MW), libero Jaime Colaizzi ranks sixth in the league (3.82), and is on pace to finish ninth in CSU single-season history.

The sophomore already has three 20-plus dig performances this season, including in back-to-back matches in mid-October. Prior to last week, when she was held to seven vs. Fresno State, Colaizzi had recorded double digits in digs in 15 consecutive matches.

What's more, Head Coach Tom Hilbert believes that this year's team may be the best he's ever had in terms of serve-receive percentage.

More notes...


 

 

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