Nov. 15, 2012
By Gary Ozzello
FORT COLLNS, Colo. – Playing on the road for any athletic team is a challenge. It’s made even more challenging when the conference title hangs in the balance.
Megan Plourde, Colorado State’s 6-foot, 3-inch senior middle blocker from Somerset, Wisc., says she and her teammates recognize this challenge facing the Rams during a crucial two-game Mountain West road trip, with matches at Air Force (Thursday, 6 p.m.) and Saturday at Boise State (7 p.m.). The Rams then return home to face New Mexico Nov. 23 in a match that will play heavily on the final regular-season standings.
“The next two matches, on the road, we have to be mentally focused,” said Plourde. “We have to play our game, in a different arena, and be focused. We have to have really good preparation. It’s very critical to win these matches.”
Colorado State is chasing its 18th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, and Plourde and her teammates know success on the road this week is vital to those postseason hopes.
The Rams, 18-7 overall and 10-3 in Mountain West play, are a half game behind league-leading San Diego State with three matches remaining. Colorado State is seeking a fourth consecutive conference title.
But this year is different than the past three seasons she has been in the program, Plourde said. By this time, she explained, the Rams usually had the conference title locked up and were eyeing the NCAA tournament.
Not in 2012.
“This is so different than past years, when we knew we’d take first place and there was no pressure (at the end of the season). This year, we have a challenge,” she said.
But Plourde also said she and her teammates are embracing that challenge.
“It’s actually cool to experience that pressure. It will help us in the long run when we get into the NCAA tournament. We’ve had some ups and downs during the season, but we’ve learned a lot.”
Colorado State has won five matches in a row and eight of its last nine entering play this weekend. So, Head Coach Tom Hilbert’s team is peaking at the right time. Hilbert, one of the nation’s premier coaches, earned his 400th career win at Colorado State with a four-set victory over Northern Colorado earlier this week.
Plourde praises Hilbert and his staff for her development on the court.
“I never felt I’d be in the position I’m in today,” she said. “The way my coaches and teammates have developed me, and believed in me from the beginning, it’s an honor that Tom took me and developed me.”
“We’ve always been a group that’s hard-working, talented and players who challenge me day-to-day in practice to get better,” she said.
When the two-game road trip ends, the Rams return home for the final regular-season home match in her illustrious career. She’s excited about facing New Mexico on Senior Night.
“I’m really looking forward to New Mexico on Senior Night,” she said. “I know our team will have lots of energy, and a lot of support from the fans.”
Plourde has as lengthy a list of accomplishments as any player in program history.
For instance, she is the CSU’s career leader in block assists, 566, and second in blocks, 601. She also has 1,026 kills, making her one of only two players in school history to record in a career 1,000 kills and 600 blocks.
The list doesn’t stop there. She led the nation in blocks per set last year, becoming only the second Ram to lead the nation in a specific statistical category. She also holds CSU’s record for blocks in a match, 19, against Cal State Fullerton in the first round of the 2010 NCAA tournament.
Having been named Mountain West player of the week four times, she is just one of only four players in program history to have earned that distinction.
A year ago, she capped one of the finest seasons by any CSU player by becoming the ninth volleyball player in school history to earn AVCA All-America honors, and by duplicating the feat in 2012, would become only the third such Ram to be so honored.
Oh, and add to that list she is a three-time all-conference pick and bidding to become a four-time honoree in 2012.
When her collegiate career draws to a close, the business marketing major, who also has a supply chain management certificate, hopes to continue to play professionally.
Tickets to Senior Night on Nov. 23 are available in one of the following convenient manners:
• In person: Tickets can be purchased at the McGraw Athletic Center ticket window, which is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
• On the phone: Fans can call toll free at 1-800-491-RAMS (7267) to purchase tickets to any Rams sporting event.
• Online: Tickets can be purchased 24 hours a day, seven days a week at CSURams.com, the official Web site of Rams Athletics.
Note: Prices do not include fees for processing ($1 per ticket) or delivery - $2 print-at-home, $7 mail and $10 will call.