Match notes: Rams close out conference slate on road

CSU closes out conference action this week with road matches at TCU and New Mexico.

CSU closes out conference action this week with road matches at TCU and New Mexico.

Nov. 8, 2011

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No. 23 Colorado State Rams

General Information
Record: 18-4 (11-1 MW)
AVCA Ranking: 23
Head Coach: Tom Hilbert
Record at CSU: 376-94

Statistical Leaders
Sets Played: Three players (75)
Kills/Set: K. Steffan (3.90)
Assists/Set: D. Foss (10.80)
Aces/Set: D. Foss (0.33)
Digs/Set: I. Gaulia (4.41)
Blocks/Set: M. Plourde (1.65)
Points/Set: K. Steffan (4.65)

Up ahead
The Rams close out their conference schedule with a pair of road matches at TCU (Thursday, 6 p.m. MT) and New Mexico (Saturday, 1 p.m. MT). CSU beat both opponents last month at Moby Arena, the first two matches of CSU's current run of seven consecutive sweeps. Historically, the Rams have played very well against both opponents, but have struggled in their gyms, going a combined 18-16 at Fort Worth and Albuquerque. Thursday's match at TCU will be televised on The Mtn. on a two-hour tape delay (8 p.m. MT).

TCU Horned Frogs
Thursday, Nov. 10 - 6 p.m. MT
General Information
Record: 21-5 (8-4 MW)
AVCA Ranking:  NR
Head Coach: Prentice Lewis
Record at TCU:  193-128
Series: CSU leads, 14-4

Statistical Leaders
Sets Played: Three players (94)
Kills/Set: K. Hester (3.43)
Assists/Set: M. Munce (10.16)
Aces/Set: M. Munch (0.28)
Digs/Set: S. Joeckel (5.55)
Blocks/Set: K. Hester (0.61)
Points/Set: K. Hester (4.01)

Series vs. TCU
The Rams and Horned Frogs meet for the 19th time on Thursday, with CSU holding a 14-4 advantage... The Rams have won three consecutive in the series, including their 3-0 win over the Horned Frogs last month at Moby... In the win, Katelyn Steffan led all players with 15 kills on .429 hitting. Dana Cranston (eight kills, .350 hitting), Brieon Paige (nine kills, .467 hitting) and Megan Plourde (seven kills, four blocks) were effective offensively, while Deedra Foss had 42 kills in the three-set sweep... In Fort Worth, CSU is just 5-4. The Rams won in 2010, but lost their previous three road matches to TCU.


 

 

New Mexico Lobos
Saturday, Nov. 12 - 1 p.m. MT
General Information
Record: 14-11 (6-6 MW)
AVCA Ranking:  NR
Head Coach: Jeff Nelson
Record at UNM:  92-51
Series:  CSU leads, 43-22

Statistical Leaders
Sets Played: Three players (94)
Kills/Set: A. Rhoades (3.90)
Assists/Set: M. Agre (10.31)
Aces/Set: M. Agre (0.26)
Digs/Set: A. buck (4.95)
Blocks/Set: A. Rhoades (0.88)
Points/Set: A. Rhoades (4.56)

About New Mexico
Less than one month ago, the Lobos were in second place in the MW standings. However, since dropping their match to the Rams on Oct. 13--their second consecutive loss--New Mexico lost two more in a row to fall back in the conference race. They have regrouped since, winning four of five, but to sit at 6-6 in the standings. Ashley Rhoades leads New Mexico in kills (3.90 per set), and blocks (0.88 per set), and ranks just behind Katelyn Steffan in kills and points. Her 4.55 points-per-set average ranks 44th nationally. As a team, the Lobos rank second in digs and third in opponent hitting percentage.

Series vs. New Mexico
Overall, CSU is 43-22 against New Mexico, including 28-2 during the Hilbert Era... Beginning in 1997, the Rams won their first 16 matches against UNM, and then won 11 straight before last season's loss... CSU is 13-12 all-time in Albuquerque. However, the Rams are 11-2 at New Mexico under Hilbert... Last month in Fort Collins, CSU swept New Mexico, its first of seven straight sweeps. Steffan led CSU with 10 kills on .350 hitting, followed by Cranston's nine kills... CSU's highest individual attack percentage came against UNM, when Soraya Santos hit .882 (15-0-17) in
2001... In five career matches vs. UNM, Megan Plourde has 37 kills and 24 blocks, including seven and five, respectively last month, in addition to two service aces.

Last week's recap
In their only match of the week, the Rams continued their dominance through MW action, sweeping Wyoming--their seventh consecutive sweep--to clinch a share of the MW regular-season title. Less than 24 hours later, thanks to a TCU loss to SDSU, the Rams clinched the title outright, winning their third consecutive regular-season conference championship, and ninth in the league's 13-year history.

The night began with cheers for senior Katelyn Steffan, applauding her for what she had accomplished during her career as a CSU Ram. The evening concluded with cheers for what she had just done. Steffan tallied the last two kills of the match for the Rams, as CSU defeated Wyoming in three sets--25-13, 25-13, 25-21--in front of a crowd of 3,392, the second-largest home attendance figure of the season. The win avenged CSU's loss at Wyoming on Oct. 8.

The Rams controlled the pace of the match throughout each set, including long runs in the first and second games. Carlie Foust's serving led to eight consecutive CSU points in Set 1, and helped the Rams pull away quickly. CSU didn't let up in Set 2, and got off to an 8-0 lead, and didn't look back, taking the set 25-13. Included in the 8-0 opening run was a service ace by Izzy Gaulia, one of 11 aces that the Rams would notch during the match, a season high, and most since Nov. 8, 2008.

Ultimately, though, the night belonged to Steffan, who finished the match with a team-most 14 kills. Junior Dana Cranston had nine kills, the second-most on the team. CSU out-dug Wyoming, 44-19, and held the Cowgirls to a -.024 hitting percentage for the match.

Back to back to back
With Friday's win against Wyoming, coupled with a TCU loss on Saturday, the Rams have earned their third straight MW regular-season title. Since the conference formed in 1999, CSU has won nine regular-season championships and four tournament titles (the tournament was played between 1999-2007). The 15 combined conference championships are more than any other sport at CSU. It marks the third straight season that the Rams have led the conference wire-to-wire.

Tourney time
With eight teams in the conference, the MW has brought back the end-of-season tournament for the first time since 2007, and CSU has earned the top seed. The three-day tournament will be played Nov. 18-20, in Albuquerque, N.M. CSU and Air Force (No. 8) are the only two teams locked into a position, and will battle in the quarterfinals on Nov. 18 (match time has not been announced). The full bracket will be released Saturday at 10 p.m. MT on www.TheMWC.com, after all regular-season conference matches have concluded.

The Rams have won four of the nine prior conference tournament championships, more than any other team, and hold an 18-5 all-time record in the tourney. The winner will receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Tickets are on sale with the all-session package (seven matches) just $30 ($24 for seniors, $12 for students).

Moving on up
For the third consecutive week, the CSU Rams volleyball team moved up one spot in the AVCA Coaches Top-25 Poll to No. 23.

Since the poll was introduced by the AVCA in 1982, CSU has appeared in 254 of the 420 polls--including 29 of the last 31 since Nov. 2, 2009. Only 14 schools in the country have been ranked more often than CSU, led by Nebraska and Stanford, which have appeared in every AVCA poll. Nebraska and Oklahoma, two of CSU's 2011 opponents, remained at No. 2 and No. 25, respectively. One of the Huskers' two losses on the season came to CSU.

550
With CSU's win over Wyoming last Friday, Head Coach Tom Hilbert earned his 550th career win (including eight seasons at Idaho). Hilbert currently holds a record of 550-166 (.768) in 23 seasons, and is 376-94 (.800) in 15 seasons in Fort Collins. Last year he became the winningest coach in any sport at CSU, when he eclipsed 357 wins.

His career winning percentage ranks 10th among active coaches, and he has led CSU to 13 conference championships (nine regular-season, four tournament) during his tenure.

750
With a pair of wins this week, the CSU volleyball program will collect its 750th all-time win. The program, which began in 1976, holds a record of 748-372 (.668), and has won 13 conference championships and has earned 22 NCAA tournament berths. CSU earned its first victory in 1976 against Laramie County Community College, and its 700th just more than two years ago, against San Diego State (Nov. 7, 2009).

Tough road ahead
The Rams are 7-3 away from Moby Arena this season, but have some of their toughest road matches in the next few weeks. CSU's final three scheduled true road matches are against TCU (Thursday), New Mexico (Saturday) and New Mexico State (Nov. 26). All three opponents rank in the top 25 for home attendance averages this season (New Mexico, 15; TCU, 19; New Mexico State, 23).

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 21 consecutive sets. It is the most consecutive sweeps since CSU rattled off 13 straight 3-0 wins in 1999.

Quick work
Thanks to 15 CSU sweeps this season, the Rams have played just 75 sets on the year, fewest in the MW. Air Force has played in 80 sets and San Diego State has competed in 89, but the remaining five teams have all played 90 more sets, including three teams with more than 100. CSU's conference opponents are averaging 95.6 sets this season.

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 211-27 (.887) at Moby, including 24-11 against nationally ranked teams. The Rams, who do not have another home match schedule for this season, closed regular-season play 11-1 (.917) at home, including winning their final nine. Dating back to 1995, CSU has recorded at least 10 home wins each season.

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.

CSU played 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 ahead
The Rams, who have already locked up the No. 1 seed after winning the regular-season championship, will play eighth-seeded Air Force in the quarterfinals of the MW championship tournament, which is being held in Albuquerque, N.M., Nov. 18-20. Match time will be released Saturday evening at 10 p.m. MT on www.TheMWC.com. From there, CSU looks to advance to the semifinals and finals of the win-or-go-home tournament. The champion will be crowned after the title match on Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. MT, and will be awarded the league's only automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.

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