Volleyball Match Notes: No. 10 Rams, Cowgirls to meet in Border War Tuesday

CSU owns a 32-2 record against Wyoming under Head Coach Tom Hilbert.

CSU owns a 32-2 record against Wyoming under Head Coach Tom Hilbert.

Nov. 4, 2013

CSU Match Notes #13 | Wyoming Notes
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Match 22: No. 10 Colorado State at Wyoming
Tuesday, Nov. 5 | 7 p.m. MT | UniWyo Sports Complex

SCOUTING WYOMING
The No. 10 Colorado State Rams travel up north to take on their Border War rival on Tuesday night. The Wyoming Cowgirls host the Rams with a 14-12 record on the year and a 4-8 record in Mountain West play. At home however, the Cowgirls have been incredibly difficult to deal with as they hold an 8-2 record playing in front of their home crowd.

Wyoming will be extra motivated for its match against Colorado State as it looks to avenge a 3-0 loss to the Rams from earlier in the year. The Cowgirls are also looking to end their current three-match losing streak.

As a team, Wyoming provides one of the toughest defensive challenges for Colorado State. Ranking first in the Mountain West in digs with 15.47 per set, the Cowgirls have a propensity to keep rallies extended and force their opponents into making errors. Wyoming also ranks second in the conference, and No. 14 nationally, with 2.83 blocks per set, and is fourth with a .190 opponent hitting percentage.

The Cowgirls are led on offense by senior middle blocker Reese Plante. Plante, a Fort Collins native, leads the team with 2.72 kills per set on .311 hitting and also averages 0.77 blocks per ste. Junior middle blocker Erin Kirby provides another dangerous option for Wyoming in the middle. The junior leads the nation with 1.76 blocks per set, and is one of five Cowgirls to average over 2.00 kills per set.

In the back row, senior libero Becky Stewart paces Wyoming in digs. With 5.36 digs per set, Stewart is first in the Mountain West and leads second place by well over half a dig per set.

SERIES VS. THE COWGIRLS
The Rams have enjoyed great success against their Border War rival. Overall, CSU leads the all-time series against Wyoming, 56-19, and has posted an impressive 24-11 record on Wyoming’s home court. The Rams have won 14 of their last 15 meetings in Laramie with the lone loss comming in five sets in 2011. Since Head Coach Tom Hilbert took over in 1997, Colorado State is 32-2 against its rival to the north.

CSU has played Wyoming a total of 34 times as a ranked team. In those matches, CSU is 28-6, including 12-6 in Laramie.

In six career matches against Wyoming, junior setter Deedra Foss has registered three double-doubles. Foss also recorded a career-high 66 assists in her first career match at Wyoming, on Oct. 8, 2011.

Earlier this season when the two teams squared off, the Rams were led by four players reaching double-digit kill totals en route to a 3-0 sweep. Junior outside hitter Marlee Reynolds had 12 kills on .345 hitting while sophomore right-side hitter Adrianna Culbert registered a double-double with 10 kills and 12 digs.

RECORD-SETTING START
With 21 straight wins, CSU established its best-ever start in program history. The Rams set the record with a come-from-behind win at Utah State on Nov. 2, winning the final three sets after dropping the initial two. The victory surpassed the 2001 team’s 20-0 start, and moved the 2013 squad into the record books. The 2001 Rams suffered their initial defeat on Nov. 3 to No. 15 Utah, and finished the year ranked No. 10 with a 29-4 record.

“That’s a record that these players deserve all the credit for,” Hilbert said. “They’re just good competitors. They have a lot of grit and determination. You can say what you want about our schedule or whatever, but we haven’t lost in 21 matches, and we’ve been in some pretty precarious situations, and that’s pretty neat.”

“I sit back sometimes in awe of this group of players, and the things they continue to do in these tough situations,” Hilbert said. “I don’t think this is me as a coach. I think this particular group has character, and just have it. They have a magical way of competing and doing well in end-games. That’s just these kids; they’re great.”

TWENTY-ONE IN A ROW
Not only are the Rams off to their best start ever, but the team’s 21-match winning streak is the program’s longest since winning 23 straight from Sept. 20-Dec. 6, 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 29 consecutive regular-season victories, a program record.

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. CSU earned two more victories last week, to extend the streak to 14 victories.

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 nine true road wins in nine tries — in addition to two neutral-court wins in Malibu, Calif., which are not included in the true road wins figure.

REMAINING UNDEFEATED
Entering the 11th 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 best start to a season in terms of wins, it is also the longest in terms of date on the calendar. The latest CSU had previously 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.

NO. 10 IN THE POLL
Despite a pair of road wins last week, the undefeated Colorado State Rams dropped one spot, to No. 10, in this week’s AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll. CSU and Minnesota swapped spots after the Golden Gophers beat then-No. 16 Purdue.

On Oct. 28, the Rams were selected No. 9 in the nation, marking CSU’s first top-10 ranking since the Nov. 29, 2004 poll.

“We’re in this position because we’re undefeated,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said after the team’s No. 9 ranking. “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 60th total time on Monday, a number that ranks 19th among all programs. All-time, CSU is 420-125 as a ranked team, including 115-23 while in the top 10. The Rams’ highest-ever ranking is No. 3, in 2000.

CSU 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.

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 currently owns a three-game lead in the Mountain West standings.

The Rams are 12-0 in MW play for just the second time ever, and CSU’s 10-0 start through the midway point marked the sixth time that CSU has gone unbeaten during the first half of MW play. The only other time CSU has started 12-0 was in 2003, when the Rams went a perfect 14-0.

BORDER WAR BULLIES
Separated by less than 70 miles, the rivalry between CSU and Wyoming goes back to 1976, the Rams’ first year as a program. The Rams have played the Cowgirls more than any other opponent, and have had great success over the years. On Sept. 18, CSU improved to 60-19 all-time against its neighbors to the north, including 32-2 under Head Coach Tom Hilbert. What’s more, Hilbert has never lost to Wyoming at Moby Arena (17-0).

RELOADING, NOT REBUILDING
The Rams’ 21-0 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
On Oct. 31 at Boise State, CSU won its 20th match of the season, marking the 19th straight season that the Rams have reached that mark. Nebraska (38 entering 2013), Penn State (36), Florida (22) and Hawai’i (19 entering 2013) are the only teams to have a longer streak than CSU.

With CSU’s win at Utah State on Nov. 2, the Rams matched their 2012 win total (21-8).

BACK-TO-BACK-TO-BACK PLAYER OF WEEK HONORS
Sophomore opposite hitter Adrianna Culbert was named the Mountain West Women’s Volleyball Player of the Week on Monday, her second honor of the season. She is the first player to earn the honor twice.

Culbert averaged 2.25 kills on .500 hitting in two road wins, in addition to 3.38 digs and 0.88 blocks per set. In a come-from-behind victory at Utah State to set the program record for wins to start a season, Culbert had 12 kills on .522 efficiency. She did not make an error in 23 attacks, and added a career-high-tying 17 digs and a season-best six blocks.

It was CSU’s first honor since earning the award in three consecutive weeks in September, which marked just the fifth time that a team has earned the award in three straight weeks, most recently occurring in 2008 by CSU.

CLOSING IN ON NO. 600
Considered one of the most successful volleyball coaches in the nation, Head Coach Tom Hilbert is just two wins shy of yet another milestone victory: No. 600. Less than a year after celebrating his 400th career win at CSU (right), 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 .773 winning percentage would rank ninth in NCAA volleyball history among coaches with at least 600 wins.

THE HILBERT FACTOR

  • Record at CSU: 424-104 (.803) - winningest coach in any sport at CSU.
  • Career record: 598-176 - 17th among active coaches in wins.
  • Career winning percentage:     .773 - 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.


COMEBACK KIDS
Head Coach Tom Hilbert said his team played well during the first two sets at Utah State on Nov. 2, but the Rams were in an unfamiliar spot, falling behind 0-2 for the first time this season. CSU regrouped in the locker room and won Set 3, leading from start to finish, before pulling off a remarkable win in Set 4. Leading 22-19, Utah State went on a 5-1 run to set up Match Point at 24-23. The Aggies’ serve went into the net, breathing life into the Rams, but CSU’s next serve went long, bringing Utah State within one point of a victory once again. That’s when the Rams’ offense took over, recording three kills in a row to win the set, 27-25. The Rams used a 4-0 run in Set 5 to gain an advantage and did not trail, winning 15-8.

“I saw a team that was resilient,” Hilbert said. “We just refused to give up. We blocked really well, which put them in a funny position. You could tell that Utah State’s state of mind changed a little bit. Tonight was another challenge that we overcame, and I’m proud of our players.”

It marked the first time CSU has bounced back from an 0-2 deficit since Sept. 2, 2011 vs. No. 5 Nebraska, and the first time the Rams have done it in a true road match since Nov. 10, 2011, at San Diego State.

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 15 in both kills and hitting percentage. Additionally, the Rams have risen to No. 6 in blocks per set. CSU and Stanford are the only two teams in the country to rank in the top 15 in kills, hitting percentage and blocks. The Rams also rank high in assists (23nd), with setter Deedra Foss ranking eighth. Samantha Peters is one of three players nationally to average at least 1.47 blocks per set while hitting above .398.

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 17 straight MW matches overall, including 21 in a row at home and 11 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 (191-31, .860 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 (88-24, .786).

EFFICIENT ATTACKING
CSU leads the Mountain West and ranks sixth in the nation with a .296 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. Ten 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 .296 clip, it would be the third-highest efficiency in CSU annals, trailing only 2001 (.314). The team is on pace to make just 465 attack errors, second-lowest ever. At Boise State on Oct. 31, the Rams hit .440, with just five attack errors, including one unforced error.

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 .151 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. 15 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 2.44 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 missed most of four matches in October due to an ankle injury, however, with sophomore Kaila Thomas stepping up and making an impact in three 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 11 of its last 14 matches, and trailing its opponents in blocking just three times on the season. In the Rams’ most recent match, they recorded 21 team blocks, sixth-most among five-set matches in CSU history, and the most since 2010.

The Rams lead the Mountain West in blocks per set and rank sixth nationally. Senior Samantha Peters is the Rams’ top blocker, averaging 1.47 per set, good for 12th 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 49 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.

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