Non-Conference Action: Colorado State takes a break from Mountain West Conference play to face Denver on Tuesday. The Rams are 8-0 all-time against the Pioneers and are 3-0 at the University of Denver. The Pioneers are 16-12 overall with a 10-5 mark at home this season.
Border War II Goes To Rams: Colorado State moved one match closer to a perfect conference season with a 3-1 win over Wyoming in Moby Arena, 30-17, 24-30, 30-21, 30-19. The Rams are a perfect 12-0 in Mountain West Conference play and are 21-4 overall. For the second match in a row, junior middle blocker Katie Jo Shirley led the Rams with 19 kills and hit .548 for the match, while sophomore outside hitter Tess Rogers and sophomore right side hitter Dre Downs chipped in 13 and 10 kills, respectively. Junior setter Melissa Courtney led all player with three aces, while Shirley led the team with 12 digs and eight blocks. Junior defensive specialist Kimi Foytich and freshman Kristen Karlik -- playing libero for the first time in conference play -- each added a career-high 11 digs on the evening. The team hit .252 for the match and had seven aces, 54 digs and 14 blocks.
Clinched: With the victory over Wyoming on Friday, the Rams clinched no less than a share of their fourth consecutive Mountain West Conference regular-season title and moved to 12-0 in league action. With a win over either Air Force or New Mexico this weekend, the Rams win the title outright. With the win, the Rams will be the top seed in the Mountain West Conference Tournament Nov. 20-22 at San Diego State.
Spoiler: In Mountain West Conference play, several team have at least five-match winning streaks, if the loss to Colorado State is removed. San Diego State has won its last four and five of six. BYU had won five of six until they lost to Utah on Saturday and Utah has won 10 of 12 conference matches, with the two losses coming at the hands of the Rams.
Streaky: The Rams have won 14 straight matches, dating back to a loss at Minnesota on Sept. 19. The streak is the fourth longest in school history and marks the 10th time the Rams have won at least 10 straight. The 14 straight is the longest since the 2001 team set the record with 20 straight.
Honored Again: Junior middle blocker Katie Jo Shirley was named co-Mountain West Conference player of the week after her performance against Wyoming. She hit .548 with 19 kills and was just two blocks shy of her first career triple-double. Kelsie Kartchner from Utah joined Shirley in the award. Kartchner and the Utes defeated BYU, solidifying the Utes for second.
Made To Be Broken: With the 12-0 start in Mountain West Conference play, the Rams break the record for the best start in league action. Colorado State breaks the old record of 10 straight wins to start conference play, held by the 2001 Colorado State team that won the regular season title with a 13-1 mark.
Playing For The Cameras: All seven matches of the Mountain West Conference Tournament will be televised, including a live broadcast of the championship match on Fox Sports Net Rocky Mountain. MWC-TV will broadcast the four quarterfinal matches back to local stations. The Colorado State match will be shown on Channel 68 in the Fort Collins area. The semifinals will both be tape-delayed on CSTV (Nov. 22 at 11 and 1, respectively) and the final will also re-run on CSTV at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 24.
Sheís The Go-To Player: The Rams are very evenly balanced this season. The starting six players, not counting libero Lindsey Kerr, are all hitting between .218 and .409 and the five hitters are averaging between 2.04 and 3.89 kills per game. In conference action, the five hitters are getting between 2.12 and 3.76 kills per game and all five are hitting above .213.
Quick Start Important: The first game of a match is extremely important this season. The Rams are 18-0 when winning game one of a match and 3-4 when losing the first stanza. They are also 16-0 when winning the first two games of a match and 0-2 when dropping the first two games.
Queens Of the Mountain: Colorado State leads the league in hitting percentage (.256), opponent hitting percentage (.154), assists per game (15.16) and kills (16.60). The Rams are also second in aces (1.85). Individually, Katie Jo Shirley leads in hitting percentage (.410) and Melissa Courtney leads in assists (13.24). In conference play only, the Rams lead in assists (15.48), kills (17.12) and aces (2.02) and are second in hitting percentage (.262) and opponent hitting percentage (.160). Courtney leads in assists (13.55) and aces (0.55) and Shirley is second in hitting percentage (.399).
Setting The Standard: Melissa Courtney knows exactly which player on the team to get the ball to at exactly the right times. The Rams are hitting .262 in conference play, which ties for second in the league and is just .004 off Utahís .266. The Rams are averaging 17.12 kills per game, which is 1.4 kills per game more than any other team in the league. Courtney leads the league in assists with 13.55 per game, almost two per game more than any other setter in the conference, and she leads the conference in aces per game with 0.55 per contest. Courtney also ranks ninth in the conference in digs per game. Against all opponents, the Rams lead the conference hitting .256, average 1.3 kills per game more than any other team, getting 16.6 kills per game. Courtney leads the league in assists at 13.24 and ranks among the best in the nation in that category, and ranks second in the league in aces per game at 0.44.
The Doctor Is In: Dre Downs recorded three double figure kill matches in the first nine she played this season. Downs then had a slump, not hitting double digits for nine straight matches, but she seems to have exploded out of the slump, recording double figures in the kills column in three of the last four matches.
Early Starts: Colorado State has an impressive streak of wins when winning the first two games in a match. The Rams are 111-1 when winning the first two games in a contest since the beginning of the 1999 season and have won their last 35. The only loss during that stretch was the championship match of the Mountain West Tournament against Utah in 2001. This season, the Rams are 16-0 and were a perfect 17-0 last year. In 1999, they were 24-0 and 28-0 in 2000. The 2001 season the Rams were 25-1.
National Rankings: According to the NCAA statistics released Nov. 2 the Rams are ranked 15th in assists per game at 15.13. The Rams are up to 12th in kills per game with 16.59. Melissa Courtney is ranked 18th with 13.20 assists per game and Katie Jo Shirley ranks 11th in hitting percentage at .402.
Well Rounded: Colorado State boasts better per game numbers in every category than its opponents this season -- kills, assists, aces and digs -- and they are tied in blocks. The Rams are also hitting over .100 points better than the opposition. In conference matches, the Rams rank higher in all five per-game categories, as well as in hitting percentage.
Busy Time of Year: Colorado State will play three matches this week, facing Denver on Tuesday and then closing out the conference regular season with Air Force on Friday and New Mexico on Saturday. This week marks the first time since the week of Sept. 15 the Rams have faced three opponents in a week. The Rams will then leave on Wed. for the conference tournament, and will be gone one week, as they face Long Beach State on Tues., Nov. 25 after the conclusion of the MWC Championship.
Serving Efficiency: Freshman Kristen Karlik is the most efficient server on this seasonís team. Karlik has just 10 errors in 230 serves, with 15 aces for a .957 efficiency. Sophomore outside hitter Casey Bauer is next on the list, missing 10 serves in 184 tries with 14 aces for a .946 percentage. In three matches this season, Bauerís rotation has been the most efficient. Sophomore Tess Rogers is the other Ram in the starting lineup over 90 percent at .927 (13 aces, 20 errors, 273 attempts).
Double Trouble: During non-conference play (13 matches), the Rams had players record just six double-doubles and setter Melissa Courtney recorded the only double-double through the first half of conference action (38 ast, 11 dig vs SDSU). In the last three matches, there have been four double-doubles recorded, three from Katie Jo Shirley, including two where she was two shy of a triple-double. Against San Diego State on Oct. 30, Shirley needed two more digs for a triple-double (14k-10b) and against Wyoming, the junior was two blocks shy of a triple-double (19k-12d).
Ticket Information: Tickets to all home Colorado State matches are available by calling the Ram Ticket Office at 1-800-491-RAMS or locally, 491-RAMS. Tickets are also available for purchase on the Colorado State website at www.csurams.com. Reserved single-match tickets are just $6, while general admission is $5 and youth general admission is $3 (ages 3-18). CSU students are admitted for free.
Block Party: Katie Jo Shirley has quite a string of blocks going. The junior has had at least one block in the last 57 matches for the Rams, dating back to the opening match of the 2002 season. Bri Frech has tallied at least one block in all 25 matches this season. Melissa Courtney and Dre Downs both have active streaks of five matches going.
Holding Steady: For the first time in seven weeks, the Rams did not move up at least one spot in the USA Today/AVCA Division I Coaches poll. Colorado State is ranked 15th in the nation with 682 points, an increase of 48 points from last week. The Rams have been ranked 74 weeks since head coach Tom Hilbert joined the staff in 1997 and 15th is the highest ranking since the Rams were 10th in the 2001 final poll. The top five in the poll remained the same.
Getting It Done: The Rams have a game winning percentage of .742 this season (66-23). The Rams have had only two three-game losses this year and both came against teams now in the top 10 (Stanford and Cal). The .742 winning percentage ranks fourth all-time at Colorado State behind the .829 (92-19) from 2001, the .795 (93-24) of 1999 and the .791 (102-27) from the 2000 season.
Into The Crystal Ball: Prior to the start of 2003, the Mountain West Coaches voted on how they thought the teams would finish the conference race. Utah received five of eight first-place votes and was picked to win with 47 points. The Rams were chosen second with two first-place nods and 41 points, while BYU was slated to capture third with 36 points. San Diego State received the final first-place vote and finished fourth with 35 points. UNLV, Wyoming, New Mexico and Air Force rounded out the voting, respectively. In actuality, the coaches werenít that far off with one week remaining. The team leaders inverted Colorado State and Utah, and with one week remaining, inverted New Mexico and Air Force. The middle of the conference could see a lot of shifting, however, with two matches remaining for each of the eight squads.
Extra Point Games: Colorado State has played in nine extra-point games this season and is 6-3 in those games, including winning the last four, all in conference play. On three occasions the Rams have won 31-29, while two victories were 32-30 and one was 33-31. The Rams have dropped games by the scores of 29-31, 30-32 and 31-33.
State Success: Colorado State has posted a 71-19 record (.789) against four-year schools in the state of Colorado. The Rams are 19-1 vs Air Force, 17-11 vs Colorado, 2-0 vs Colorado College, 8-0 vs Denver, 5-0 vs Metro State, 10-6 vs Northern Colorado, 8-1 vs Regis and 2-0 vs Southern Colorado.
Feast Fit For A Queen: CSU leads the Mountain West in aces in conference play with 2.02 per game and three players rank in the top 10 in the same category. Becky Sarauer creeped onto the list after serving up at least one ace in five of the last six matches and has tallied 10 aces over those six and is now averaging 0.33 per game. Melissa Courtney has had six matches this season with at least three aces in the match and leads in conference play with 0.55 per game and Bri Frech is averaging 0.50 per game in league action and has at least one ace in nine of 12 conference matches, including six of the last seven.
Home Sweet Home: Colorado State loves playing in Moby Arena. The Rams have posted a 32-1 (.970) all-time record in Mountain West Conference play at home, losing only last season to BYU in five games. All time in Moby, the Rams are 214-62 (.775) and have posted a 96-11(.897) record at home since the arrival of Tom Hilbert in 1997.
Top Twenty: Colorado State remains ranked in the top 20 in national attendance this week. The Rams are 20th, averaging 1,442 fans per match and have had a total of 17,307 fans in the stands through the first 12 home matches of the season.
Century Mark: Friday was head coach Tom Hilbertís 100th match against teams in the Mountain West Conference. Hilbert is now 86-14 (.860) against Mountain West competition. He also has a record of 62-6 in the Mountain West Conference, including a perfect 12-0 record this season. In conference matches at Colorado State, he boasts a record of 86-10 (.896).
On Pace: With two matches remaining in league action and if the Rams play the minimum amount of games in both matches, setter Melissa Courtney should end the conference season with 649 assists, which would be the third best total in Mountain West Conference history. Last season, she set the record with 693 assists, breaking the record previously held by former CSU setter Allison Peckham.
Quick Hits On Denver: With the 3-0 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday, the Pioneers clinched a spot in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Denver sports an overall record of 16-12 and are 10-5 in Denver this season. The Pioneers are also 7-6 in league play.
Both teams have faced Colorado, Wyoming and Air Force this season with the Pioneers going 1-2 in the three matches and the Rams are 4-0 against the three teams.
Middle blocker Kelli Rudelson leads the Pioneers with a .384 hitting percentage and is averaging 2.60 kills per game. Outside hitter Lisa Hunter leads the team with 3.24 kills per game and 0.38 aces per game. Libero Jen Karas has a team best 3.18 digs per game average and middle blocker Andrea Baron is averaging 1.34 blocks per game to lead the team. Sophomore setter Ashly Ball leads the team with 1.179 assists per game. Denver is hitting .234 this season, with 14.34 kills, 12.96 assists, 1.83 aces, 13.53 digs and 2.50 blocks per game.
Last season, the Pioneers came to Moby Arena for senior night, celebrating the career of undergraduate coach Michelle Knox. Knox and Tess Rogers led all players with 18 kills each, while Katie Jo Shirley led the match with 13 digs. Baron, Amanda Millard and Karas each had eight kills for the Pioneers, while Hughes and Kristin Halt each had 10 digs and Rudelson led all players with four blocks. The Rams won in three, 30-20, 35-33, 30-24.
Head coach Beth Kuwata is in her eighth season at Denver and her 10th season as a head coach after spending her first two seasons at Wyoming. Kuwata sports a record of 140-160 overall and is 113-127 in her career at Denver.