Oct. 31, 2012
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RAMS VS. COWGIRLS - THE MATCHUP
FRIDAY, NOV. 2, 2012 | 7 P.M. MT | UNIWYO SPORTS COMPLEX (1,200) | LARAMIE, WYO.
The Rams travel to Laramie on Friday to take on the Cowgirls in a Border War matchup. Wyoming comes into the match boasting a 17-9 record overall, and 4-6 in Mountain West play. Overall, the Cowgirls have won four of their last five matches, and are 13-1 on their home court. Wyoming’s lone home loss was a five-set loss to San Diego State.
The Cowgirls will present one of the toughest defensive matchups Colorado State has played against all year. Wyoming ranks first in the conference in both opponent hitting percentage (.133) and blocks per set (3.20), while also ranking fifth in the Mountain West with 14.38 digs per set. At 3.20 blocks per set, the Cowgirls rank second in the nation, trailing only Washington.
Anchoring that strong defensive play at the net are a pair of middle blockers. Erin Kirby, a sophomore, ranks No. 6 nationally with 1.61 blocks per set, an average that she has increased to 1.76 during conference play. Accompanying Kirby in the middle is junior Reese Plante, who ranks second on the team and sixth in the Mountain West with 1.24 blocks per set.
Playing the libero position, Wyoming features Becky Stewart in the back line. Stewart leads the conference with 4.80 digs per set.
The Cowgirls are led by an all-around player in outside hitter Jodi Purdy. Purdy, an honorable mention All-American last year, was voted as Mountain West Co-Preseason Player of the Year, along with CSU’s Dana Cranston. This year, Purdy has lived up to those expectations, ranking third on the team with 0.95 blocks per set, and also placing second on the team with 2.62 digs per set.
On offense, Purdy leads the way for the team in both kills and points. With 3.26 kills and 4.06 points per set, the outside hitter ranks seventh and third, respectively, in the Mountain West. Purdy also brings another strong dimension to her game with her serve, ranking fourth in the conference with 0.31 service aces per set. A constant double-double threat, Purdy has chipped in with 10 this year, and ranks second in Mountain West history for career double-doubles, with 52.
Also setting the tone for Wyoming on offense is Rachel Keyes. The setter ranks eighth in the conference with 5.91 assists per set. The Cowgirls often utilize a second setter, Whitney Smith, to mix up their offensive attack. Smith is second on the team with 4.00 assists per set. As a team, however, Wyoming ranks eighth in the conference with 10.89 assists per set.
Series vs. the Cowgirls
Colorado State leads the all-time series against Wyoming, 54-19, and have posted an impressive 30-2 record under Head Coach Tom Hilbert.
After losing his second match ever to Wyoming, in 1997, Hilbert’s Rams rattled off 26 straight victories over their rival before finally losing last year in Laramie, 3-2. In that match, Colorado State won the first two sets before the Cowgirls came back to take the match in five. Overall, the Rams are 23-11 in matches played in Laramie.
Since their loss last year, the Rams have now won three straight matches over Wyoming. Each of those matches featured a sweep, with one of them coming in the semifinals of the 2011 Mountain West Championships. When the two teams faced each other earlier this year in Fort Collins, Megan Plourde led the way for the Rams with 10 kills and three blocks. Plourde was the only player to record double-digit kills in that match. After the first set was back-and-forth, with the Rams sneaking out a 25-22 victory, the Cowgirls failed to score more than 13 points in either of the final two sets.
Both teams played strong defense as Colorado State was held to just .198 hitting and Wyoming was held to -.028 hitting, a season low for a CSU opponent. Attack errors proved to be a big difference in the match with the Cowgirls committing 26 hitting errors compared to CSU’s 13.
How to follow along
• Audio: KCSU will be broadcasting the match from Laramie. Tune in to 90.5 FM locally or www.KCSUFM.com worldwide.
• Live Stats: Online statistics will be provided through GameTracker.
• Twitter: As always, CSU’s athletic department will tweet live updates and results from the CSU Rams Gameday Twitter account.
Top of the Mountain
In 13 seasons with the Mountain West, CSU has led the charge, winning nine regular-season conference championships, in addition to five MW tournament titles in 10 seasons. No other current MW team has taken home a regular-season conference title. Utah won or shared three crowns during its 12 seasons with the conference, while BYU won or shared a pair of championships. CSU has finished first in the regular-season standings each of the last three years, and is currently making a push for a fourth straight.
CSU recently played its 200th all-time Mountain West match, defeating UNLV in straight sets. The Rams have nearly 85 percent of their MW matches (173-31, .848 winning percentage), far greater than any current or former opponent. Entering the week, they hold impressive numbers both at home (95-7, .931 winning percentage) and on the road (78-24, .775).
The league’s all-time composite standings can be found on Page 6.
Down to the wire
With four weeks remaining in the regular season, the Rams are one of four teams making a strong push for the Mountain West title. Entering the week, UNLV sits a half-game ahead of CSU and San Diego State for first place. Just a half-game behind the Ram and Aztecs is fourth-place Fresno State.
CSU has won three consecutive conference titles, leading the league wire to wire each of those three years. In 2012, however, the race is expected to come down to the final week.
Remaining schedules for each of the top four teams can be found on Page 10.
Match No. 500
Head Coach Tom Hilbert, now in his 17th year at CSU, will coach his 500th career match at Colorado State on Friday. During his previous 499 matches, he has won 396, more than any coach in any sport at CSU, at a winning percentage that rivals coaches across the country.
The Hilbert factor
• Record at CSU: 396-103 (.794) – winningest coach in any sport at CSU.
• Career record: 570-175 – 19th among active coaches in wins.
• Career winning percentage: .766 – 10th among active coaches; 15th among all coaches all-time.
• 15 NCAA tournaments in 15 years in Fort Collins.
• Holds a 223-28 (.888) winning percentage at Moby Arena, including 25-11 against nationally ranked teams.
• 39 total wins against top-25 teams, including knocking off No. 1 UCLA in 2000.
• 13 conference coach of the year awards, in addition to three AVCA region coach of the year honors.
Eying blocking history
Already established as one of the program’s best blockers, senior Megan Plourde etched her name among the best on Oct. 19, moving into second place in CSU history for total blocks. The senior, who led the nation in blocks per set in 2011, currently holds 584 total blocks, which is 46 shy of the all-time record.
Plourde passed Mekana Barnes during the most recent home stand, and now trails only Angela Knopf. The senior can become the school’s all-time leader in block assists this weekend, needing just four assisted blocks to pass Knopf.
At her current season average, Plourde has a chance to become the school’s all-time blocking leader by the end of the regular season. More information on where Plourde, and other current Rams, rank in CSU’s record book can be found on Page 8.
Senior CLASS Award finalist
CSU senior Dana Cranston’s achievements on and off the court have landed her as one of 10 finalists for the prestigious 2012 Senior CLASS Award.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. The award honors the attributes of senior student-athletes in four areas: community, classroom, character and competition.
“This is such an honor,” Cranston said. “I owe it to all those around me—my family, friends and teammates who push me every day to be great in every part of my life. I’m surrounded by constant support and people who love me and who want to see me do well. Getting this recognition reminds me how lucky I am to be at CSU, playing for the coaches I do, and with the teammates I have. I’m so thankful for these blessings.”
The outside hitter from Fort St. John, B.C. was chosen as one of 30 candidates in September, before a media committee selected her as one of 10 finalists. Fans have an opportunity to make Cranston this year’s Senior CLASS Award winner through nationwide voting which runs through Nov. 26. Fan votes will be combined with media and Division I head coaches’ votes to determine the winner.
Halted again at three
CSU entered competition last week riding a three-match win streak. It marked the third time this season that the Rams have reached a streak of that length, but each time, they have fallen in their next match. They did, however, set a season high for consecutive sets won, with 10, after winning the opening set against San Diego State.
Fans can get a good indication of how the match will end based off a few statistics. The Rams are 13-4 this season when recording more blocks than their opponent, while 0-3 when trailing. CSU is also 14-2 when holding a higher attack percentage, and 0-5 vice versa. When hitting above. 300, CSU is a perfect 9-0. The Rams are also 7-0 when holding their opponents to under .100 hitting.
Avoiding the sweep
CSU has posted three-set wins 11 times this season—including its seven most-recent victories entering competition this week—and has yet to be swept. In fact, the Rams haven’t been swept since falling at Oklahoma on Aug. 29, 2011, a span of 47 matches. The streak is the second-longest in program history, trailing only a run of 57 contests during the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
Additionally, CSU hasn’t dropped the first two sets of a match since last season when the Rams fell at TCU on Nov. 10. The stretch includes 28 consecutive matches, also tied for second-longest in school annals. The record was set during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, at 39.
CSU has always been one of the best blocking teams in the country, and the team finished 2011 ranked third nationally with 3.15 blocks per set. In 21 matches to begin the 2012 campaign, CSU is averaging 2.92 blocks per set, and has recorded 10 or more team blocks on 12 occasions. In the most recent statistical report, CSU ranks 15th nationally in blocks per set.
The Rams are 36-7 when leading their opposition in blocks since the beginning of last year, and have been outblocked just seven times during that period.
The Rams know that if they can win the first set, it puts them in good position to win the match. All-time under Head Coach Tom Hilbert, the Rams are 353-34 (.912) when winning the initial set, including 13-2 in 2012. Even more impressive, CSU is 317-4 (.988) under Hilbert when taking a 2-0 lead.
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