Volleyball Match Notes: Undefeated CSU returns to Moby Arena Saturday

With a win Saturday the Rams would improve to 23-0 and Head Coach Tom Hilbert would earn victory No. 600 for his career.

With a win Saturday the Rams would improve to 23-0 and Head Coach Tom Hilbert would earn victory No. 600 for his career.

Nov. 7, 2013

Colorado State Match Notes #14 | Nevada Notes
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Match 23: No. 10 Colorado State vs. Nevada Wolf Pack
Saturday, Nov. 9 | 7:30 p.m. MT | Moby Arena | Fort Collins, Colo.

SCOUTING NEVADA
Nevada has struggled in 2013, its second year in the Mountain West, still winless in conference play (0-12 entering Thursday’s match at Wyoming) and 2-22 on the year. Contrary to CSU, which has won 22 consecutive matches, Nevada is on a 15-match losing streak dating back to September. Nevada is 1-14 away from Reno, defeating Montana in Lubbock, Texas. The Wolf Pack also picked up a 3-0 sweep over Weber State during the second week of the season.

The Wolf Pack have struggled as a team. Junior Tessa Lea’ea, a Preseason All-Mountain West Team selection leads all players with 2.70 kills, down from 3.14 in 2012. Lea’ea also leads Nevada in blocks, ranking seventh in the MW with 1.12 per set. Dana Holt is Nevada’s only other player to rank in the top 10 in the MW for a statistical category, averaging 8.02 assists per set (eighth).

As a team, Nevada ranks eighth in the league in blocks (1.97 per set), but last in the other six statistical categories.

Nevada is coached by Ruth Lawanson. In two-plus seasons in Reno, Lawanson has gone 11-68.

SERIES VS. THE WOLF PACK
Saturday will mark just the seventh all-time meeting between the Rams and Wolf Pack, with four coming in the last two years since Nevada joined the Mountain West. CSU holds a 4-2 edge over Nevada, winning three in a row since starting the series 1-2.

CSU’s 30-match regular season winning streak and 15-match true road winning streak began at Nevada on Oct. 27, 2012. In that match, CSU hit .323 as Deedra Foss recorded 36 assists, in addition to three kills, five digs and four blocks. In the last three meetings, CSU has hit .355 against Nevada, limiting the Wolf Pack to sub-.100 hitting twice. Last month in Reno, CSU jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the match, but let Set 3 slip away after substituting some different players into the match. The Rams used an 8-1 run in Set 4 to win the match, 3-1. In the victory, Marlee Reynolds was one of four players in double figures for kills, tallying 13 on .455 hitting.

RECORD-SETTING START
With 22 straight victories, CSU is off to a record-setting start. With a come-from-behind win at Utah State (Nov. 2), the Rams surpassed the 2001 squad’s 20-0 start. CSU followed its historic win with another victory on Tuesday at Wyoming to improve to 22-0 on the season.

“That’s a record that these players deserve all the credit for,” Hilbert said after his team came back from an 0-2 deficit at Utah State. “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. 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.”

In 2001, the Rams suffered their initial defeat on Nov. 3 to No. 15 Utah, and finished the year ranked No. 10 with a 29-4 record.

TWENTY-TWO IN A ROW
Not only are the Rams off to their best start ever, but the team’s 22-match winning streak is one shy of match a program record when CSU was victorious in 23 consecutive matches from Sept. 20-Dec. 6, 2003. The Mountain West’s longest winning streak was established when Utah won 25 consecutive matches between Sept. 3 and Nov. 24, 2006.

Excluding the Rams’ NCAA tournament loss to No. 22 Purdue last season, they haven’t lost a contest since Oct. 25, 2012, a span of 30 consecutive regular-season victories, a program record.

ANOTHER MILESTONE VICTORY: NO. 600
Considered one of the most successful volleyball coaches in the nation, Head Coach Tom Hilbert is just one win 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. With a win Saturday, he will be one of 10 coaches in NCAA volleyball history to reach 600 wins and at least a .770 winning percentage.

HILBERT BY THE NUMBERS

  • Record at CSU: 425-104 (.803) - winningest coach in any sport at CSU.
  • Career record: 599-176 - 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.

REMAINING UNDEFEATED
In 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.

STREAKING
With a 22-0 record, the Rams own several impressive win streaks.

  • 30 straight regular-season victories (1st in NCAA)
  • 22 consecutive wins (2nd in NCAA)
  • 18 straight home wins
  • 15 consecutive true road wins
  • 17 straight wins away from Moby Arena during the regular season
  • 21 straight Mountain West victories

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 positions after the Golden Gophers beat then-No. 16 Purdue last Friday.

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 421-125 as a ranked team, including 116-23 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.

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.

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.

With four weeks remaining in the regular season, CSU owns a 3.5-game lead in the Mountain West standings.

The Rams are 13-0 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 13-0 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 dates 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 Tuesday, CSU improved to 61-18 all-time against its neighbors to the north, including 33-2 under Head Coach Tom Hilbert. What’s more, Hilbert has never lost to Wyoming at Moby Arena (17-0).

RELOADING, NOT REBUILDING
The Rams’ 22-0 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 Wyoming on Monday, the Rams surpassed their 2012 win total (21-8).

CULBERT HONORED FOR SECOND TIME
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.

On Sept. 23, Samantha Peters was named the MW Player of the Week after helping the Rams to a pair of victories on the week, extending CSU’s undefeated stretch to 10 matches, one of six undefeated teams in the country at the time. In two three-set wins against Wyoming and SEC power Texas A&M, she averaged 1.83 blocks and 2.83 kills on .412 hitting. She posted 10 kills on .450 hitting against the Cowgirls, who were ranked No. 1 in the country in blocking at the time. Against Texas A&M, she had six stuffs against the nation’s 11th-best attacking team at the time.

The league named Culbert its Sept. 16 selection after averaging 5.29 kills and 3.00 digs per set on .523 hitting. In a four-set victory at Denver on Sept. 10, she tallied a career-high 23 kills, the most by a MW player this season at the time and most by a CSU athlete since November 2011. Her 23 kills came on .512 hitting, as she committed just two errors on 41 swings. In the match, Culbert also led the team in aces (3) and digs (14). The following night, hosting Missouri State, Culbert had a team-high 14 kills on .542 hitting, a career high.

One week prior (Sept. 9) Deedra Foss was named the MW Player of the Week after helping the Rams to a 4-0 week, including the Pepperdine Invitational championship. Foss averaged 12.07 assists, 2.60 digs, 0.67 kills, 0.47 aces and 0.47 blocks per set on the week, earning tournament MVP honors. Against UC Santa Barbara, she tallied a double-double with 53 assists, 13 digs, four kills, four blocks and two aces.

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.

The Rams are one of three teams nationally to rank in the top 10 for both attendance averages and in the AVCA top-25 poll (also Texas and Minnesota).

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 Saturday’s match, CSU has won 20 straight MW matches overall, including 21 in a row at home and 12 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 86 percent of their MW matches (192-31, .861 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 (89-24, .788).
 
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 are in strong position 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 (13-0) currently holds a 3.5-match lead in the standings, ahead of Fresno State (9-3), New Mexico (8-4), UNLV (8-4) and Utah State (8-4).

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