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Match notes: Rams conference title, revenge vs. Wyoming

Katelyn Steffan will play her final regular-season match at Moby Arena Friday

Katelyn Steffan will play her final regular-season match at Moby Arena Friday

Nov. 2, 2011

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About CSU

Record: 17-4 (10-1 MW)
AVCA Ranking: 24
Head Coach: Tom Hilbert
Record at CSU: 375-94

Statistical Leaders
Sets Played: Three players (72)
Kills/Set: K. Steffan (3.87)
Assists/Set: D. Foss (10.83)
Aces/Set: D. Foss (0.33)
Digs/Set: I. Gaulia (4.31)
Blocks/Set: M. Plourde (1.62)
Points/Set: K. Steffan (4.62)

Last week’s recap

CSU hosted a pair of conference matches last week and, like the two weeks prior, had no problem, winning both in straight sets.

On Thursday, in a matchup between the top two teams in the conference standings, the Rams defeated San Diego State thanks to great end-game play. After trailing 18-16, the Rams won the first set on a 9-3 run. There were 12 total ties and six lead changes in the set. In the second set, after tying the score at 11-11, the Aztecs played on their heels, thanks to junior Brieon Paige and senior Katelyn Steffan, who recorded several big kills. CSU was able to finish the set on a 14-7 run to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room. The Rams stayed on track in Game 3 with the help of great offense by Steffan, Paige and junior Megan Plourde. CSU finished the match with a hitting percentage of .282 on 40 kills, while holding SDSU to .116 on 37 kills. The difference in the match was blocking. CSU finished the match with 10 blocks, compared to SDSU’s three. Paige led CSU with nine kills on .529 hitting, followed by eight kills apiece by Steffan and Plourde, and a half dozen each from Cranston and Tori Brummett. Plourde led the Rams with six blocks.

On Saturday against UNLV, the Rams hit .493, their second-highest total of the season, including .577 in the final set. Four players—Katelyn Steffan (10 kills-0 errors-15 attempts, .667 hitting), Brieon Paige (8-0-10, .800), Megan Plourde (8-2-17, .353) and Dana Cranston (7-3-12, .333)—recorded at least seven kills.

In addition to the offense, the defense was working exceptionally well, too. UNLV hit just .058 on the day. The Rams also outblocked the Rebels 12.5-2, highlighted by Plourde’s eight, which ties a season best. All eight came in the first two sets. Steffan added five blocks, in addition to four apiece by Paige and setter Deedra Foss. Leading 11-10 in Set 1, the Rams separated themselves with a 12-3 run to gain the advantage. It was a big run again in the second set that put things away. Leading 11-8 midway through, the Rams rattled off six straight points and finished the set on a 14-1 run. UNLV’s nine points were the fewest scored by an opponent since Air Force put up nine points last November.

Match 22: Wyoming at No. 24 CSU
Friday, Nov. 4, 2011 – 7 p.m. MT
Moby Arena

About Wyoming

Record: 18-9 (7-4 MW)
AVCA Ranking:  NR
Head Coach: Carrie Yerty
Record at Wyoming:  58-57
Series: CSU leads, 51-19

Statistical Leaders
Sets Played: E. Kirby & J. Purdy (97)
Kills/Set: J. Purdy (3.58)
Assists/Set: R. Keyes (7.39)
Aces/Set: J. Purdy (0.30)
Digs/Set: B. Stewart (3.77)
Blocks/Set: E. Kirby (1.19)
Points/Set: J. Purdy (4.25)

Wyoming has won five of its last six matches, including a victory over San Diego State last Saturday to jump ahead of the Aztecs in the MW standings. The team is led by Jodi Purdy, who averages 3.58 kills per set, and is the team leader in aces (0.30 per set), and second in digs (3.24 per set). Four other players averaged more than 1.5 kills per set, including Erin Kirby, who is also the team’s most efficient hitter (.339 attack percentage) and best blocker (1.19 per set).

As a team, Wyoming ranks third in hitting percentage and second in blocks. The Cowgirls are 7-5 away from Laramie this season, including 4-3 in true road matches, and 2-2 in MW play.

Series vs. Wyoming
• The Rams come into Friday’s match at Wyoming with a 51-19 all-time series record.
• The two teams met on Oct. 8 in Laramie, where the Cowgirls rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Rams for the first time in 14 years.
• Prior to last month’s setback, the Rams had won 26 consecutive matches over the Cowgirls. All-time, Tom Hilbert is 27-2 vs. Wyoming.
• CSU’s 51 wins vs. Wyoming are more than any other opponent.
• The Rams and Cowgirls will meet for the 71st time on Friday. CSU has played just two other teams more times than Wyoming (BYU, 75 and Utah, 74).
• In her career, Megan Plourde has averaged 8.2 kills and 4.2 blocks on .385 hitting in five matches vs. Wyoming. Brieon Paige has recorded 22 kills on .356 hitting in three career matches against the Cowgirls. In her last three matches against Wyoming, Katelyn Steffan has recorded 44 kills at hit .310, highlighted by 28 kills last month.
• CSU fell to Wyoming earlier this season, despite hitting .295 and recording more kills (77 to 65), assists (75 to 56), digs (96 to 75) and blocks (12.0-7.0).
• The Rams recorded 96 digs in their Oct. 8 match at Wyoming, sixth-most ever. Dana Cranston (25) and Izzy Gaulia (23) and Carlie Foust (20) each recorded 20-plus digs, the first time in nearly five years that at least two players have recorded at least 20 digs in a match. Five players (Cranston, Gaulia, Foust, Foss (13) and Steffan (11)) recorded double-digit kill totals, also doing so for the first time in five years (Oct. 14, 2006 vs. SDSU).
• The program’s top two team-kill totals both came against Wyoming (102 kills in 1985 and 99 in 1996).
• In 2006, the Rams recorded 46 block assists vs. the Cowgirls, tied for the most in program history. That night, Ashley Fornstrom had 11 blocks en route to one of 15 triple-doubles in CSU history.

Senior Night

CSU will close out its home schedule on Friday with the Border War, and the team looks to avenge its loss to Wyoming in October, the team’s only MW loss this season.

The Rams will honor their lone senior, Katelyn Steffan, Friday night, in her final regular-season match at Moby Arena. Steffan, who leads the conference with 3.87 kills per set, is on pace to finish with the highest kill-per-set average in four years. She is also expected to eclipse more than 900 career kills, depending on how far the Rams advance in the MW tournament later this month, and possibly the NCAA tournament in December.

Fans are encouraged to arrive to the match early to celebrate Steffan’s career before the match.

Also Friday:
•    All youth (12 & under) get in free
•    Dorm Challenge: In addition to all CSU students (with a valid student ID), the residence hall floor that brings the most residents to the match wins a free pizza party with the team.

A third straight title within reach
With a win Friday, CSU will clinch at least a share of the Mountain West regular-season title. The Rams are currently 2.5 games ahead of San Diego State as of Wednesday, and have a three-game lead over third-place Wyoming. A TCU loss at UNLV on Thursday would allow the Rams to claim the conference title entirely with a win on Friday.

Back in the polls
Riding a six-match win streak, including two sweeps this past week, the CSU Rams volleyball team moved up one spot in this week’s AVCA Coach’s Top 25 Poll, to No. 24.

After appearing in the poll for nearly two years straight, the Rams fell out for two weeks earlier this month, before regaining their positioning last week with 86 points and a No. 25 ranking. CSU earned 133 points in this week’s poll, released Monday, moving ahead of No. 25 Oklahoma, a 2011 CSU opponent. For the entire poll, see page 2 of the notes.

Nebraska, which CSU beat on Sept. 2, is the now No. 2, after dropping just its second loss of the season to Penn State. The Rams are the only other team to beat the Huskers this year.

550
Last season, Head Coach Tom Hilbert became the winningest coach in any sport at CSU, when he eclipsed 357 wins. Friday will be Hilbert’s first chance at 550 career wins (including eight seasons at Idaho). Hilbert currently holds a record of 549-166 (.768) in 23 seasons, and is 375-94 (.799) in 15 seasons in Fort Collins.

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

How sweep it is
Since falling in a heartbreaking defeat at Laramie, Wyo., on Oct. 8, the Rams have failed to drop a set, winning a season-most 18 consecutive sets. The last time CSU rattled off six consecutive sweeps was from Oct. 3-Oct. 24, 2003.

Player of the Week
Colorado State junior Brieon Paige led the Rams to two conference victories last week, and on Monday, was rewarded with her first career Mountain West Volleyball Player of the Week award.

Paige, a 6-2 middle blocker from Sacramento, Calif., averaged 2.83 kills per set on .630 hitting in sweeps over San Diego State and UNLV. In the six sets, she recorded 17 kills without making an error. Paige also added eight blocks, two digs and an assist in the pair of matches.

On Thursday against the Aztecs, who at the time were in second place in the MW standings, Paige recorded a team-high nine kills on .529 hitting. With the score tied at 8-8 in the opening set, she began a 5-3 CSU run with a kill, forcing a SDSU timeout. The Rams closed out the set on a 6-2 run, which featured a block and kill by Paige. The score was tied again in the second set, this time at 11-11, when Paige posted a block to ignite a 3-0 run. CSU held the advantage the remainder of the set.

Against UNLV on Saturday afternoon, Paige converted eight of her 10 attempts into kills, hitting .800. The percentage led CSU, which posted its second-highest attack percentage of the season (.493). In Set 1 against the Rebels, Paige recorded a kill followed by a block, the first two plays of an 8-1 CSU run. In Set 3 alone, Paige recorded five kills on six attempts, in addition to two blocks.

The award is CSU’s fourth in 10 weeks this season. It is the first time since 2008 that at least four Mountain West Volleyball Player of the Week honors have been given to a CSU student-athlete. Megan Plourde was awarded for the week of Sept. 5, while Katelyn Steffan has been honored twice (Oct. 3 and Oct. 17). Steffan’s two awards also mark the first time in three seasons that a player has won two awards in the same season. Mekena Barnes did so twice in 2008.

Home-court advantage
For years, Moby Arena has been known as one of the hostile venues for opposing teams to play in. Now only does the arena produce big crowds, but the team on the court produces big wins, at a high rate.

In 14-plus seasons under Hilbert, the Rams are 210-27 (.886) at Moby, including 24-11 against nationally ranked teams. After a pair of wins last weekend, the Rams improved to 10-1 this year on their home court. Dating back to 1995, CSU has recorded at least 10 home wins each season.

Even more impressive, however, is the fact that CSU is playing just 12 games at Moby Arena this year, its fewest total in nearly two decades. The last time the Rams played so few home matches was in 1983, when just seven of the team’s 39 matches were played in Fort Collins.

Looking for 11
A win Friday would close out the Rams’ regular-season home record at 11-1 (.917). The winning percentage would rank ninth all-time, and would mark the ninth time CSU has lost one match or fewer at Moby Arena, and first since 2008.


 

 

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