Match notes: Rams open Mountain West Volleyball Championship as No. 1 seed

The championship will be played Nov. 18-20 in Albuquerque, N.M.

The championship will be played Nov. 18-20 in Albuquerque, N.M.

Nov. 16, 2011

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2011 Mountain West Volleyball Championship

Nov. 18-20, 2011 | Johnson Center (Albuquerque, N.M.)
The Rams open the 2011 Mountain West Volleyball Championship as the No. 1 seed, finishing the regular season with a MW record of 12-2. The tournament, being played at New Mexico’s Johnson Center (4,000), will take place Nov. 18-20. It is the first time since 2007 that the tournament has been played.

CSU will play No. 8 Air Force in the quarterfinals, on Friday at 6 p.m. MT. A win over the Falcons will pit the Rams against the winner of the No. 4/5 match between Wyoming and host New Mexico. That match will be played at 7:30 p.m. MT on Saturday. With a victory Saturday, CSU would advance to the tournament championship on Sunday at 6 p.m. MT. The winner not only will be crowned as the 2011 Mountain West Tournament champion, but will also receive the league’s only automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

For more information on the championship tournament, and to view the full bracket, click here.

Tickets on sale
Tickets for the MW championship can be purchased on www.TheMWC.com for an affordable price. All-session packages (seven matches) are just $30 ($24 for seniors, $12 for students), while single-day tickets range from $5 to $12.

Mountain West championship history
• CSU is 19-5 all-time in the Mountain West championship.
• The Rams are 3-0 vs. Air Force, beating the Falcons from 2000-2002 in the quarterfinals.
• CSU has won more championships (4) than any other MW opponent (current or past).
• The Rams have appeared in six championships.
• UNLV, which won in 2007, is the only other current MW member to have won the tournament.
• The Rams have never lost in the quarterfinals.
• CSU has been the top seed six times, including 2011.
• The No. 1 seed has appeared in the finals in seven of the nine years (not 2002 or 2007).
• However, the No. 1 seed has won the tournament just once (CSU in 2003).
• The top two seeds have faced each other in the championship match five times, but never since 2004.
• The No. 8 seed is 3-9 in the MW championship, but has never won a quarterfinals match (all three wins came between 2005 and 2007 when the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds played an opening-round match).
• Air Force has never won a match in the MW championship.
• 2011 will mark the first time since 2007 that the tournament has been played, and the first time ever it has been held in Albuquerque. The tournament has taken place three times in Fort Collins, twice at Utah, once at San Diego State, and, most recently, three times in Las Vegas.
• The No. 4 seed is 6-3 all-time vs. the No. 5 seed; with a win, CSU will play that match’s winning team.
• CSU players have taken home four tournament MVP awards: Catie Vagneur (1999), Tess Rogers (2003), Melissa Courtney (2004) and Jaime Strauss (2006).

On the tube
All seven matches of the tournament will be broadcast. The quarterfinals and semifinals (Nov. 18 & 19) will be televised on The Mtn. (DirecTV: channel 616; Comcast: 411, 948 [HD]), with AnneMarie Anderson and Amy Gant calling the action, while the championship match will feature Jason Knapp and Tammy Blackburn on the CBS Sports Network (DirecTV: 613; Comcast: 412, 846 [HD]; Dish: 152 [HD]). CSU is 3-1 in front of TV audiences this season.

For those without access to television, each of CSU’s matches will be aired through CSU’s campus-run radio station, KCSU. Local fans can tune in to 90.5 on the FM dial, while others can stream the broadcast online at www.KCSUFM.com. Eric Dewey and Connor Farrell will be giving fans the play-by-play.

What’s at stake . . .
• A 17th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.
• The team’s fifth MW tournament championship.
• The program’s 16th overall conference championship, which would put it alone for most conference championships among any sport at CSU (currently tied at 15 with football).

With a win Friday . . .
• CSU will advance to the semifinals against either No. 4 Wyoming or No. 5 New Mexico, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MT.
• The Rams will have won their 20th match of the season, marking the 17th straight year CSU has accomplished 20 wins in a season.
• The volleyball program will collect its 750th all-time win.
• CSU will improve to 36-1 all-time against Air Force, including 36 straight wins since the program’s only loss in 1982.

All-conference team
The coaches have voted, and on Thursday evening, the 2011 Mountain West all-conference team will be announced. Several Rams are being considered for the eight-player team, including senior Katelyn Steffan, who is also a candidate for the Player of the Year award. The league will also announce its top newcomer, freshman and coach of the year.

Megan Plourde, a two-time all-Mountain West selection, is the only current Ram to have been honored. Head Coach Tom Hilbert has won seven of the league’s 12 Coach of the Year trophies.

Last week’s recap
The Rams, riding a seven-match win streak, suffered a setback last Thursday in Fort Worth, falling to TCU in five sets (21-25, 23-25, 25-18, 25-20, 11-15). Four players recorded double-digit kill totals, led by junior Megan Plourde’s 17 on .375 hitting. She also had a team-leading eight blocks in the match. Dana Cranston (13 kills), Brieon Paige (13) and Katelyn Steffan (11) were the other offensive threats, while Tori Brummett also tallied eight blocks. Izzy Gaulia set a career high with 28 digs.

CSU rebounded on Saturday, earning a hard-fought win in Albuquerque (19-25, 25-14, 25-19, 22-25, 15-11). The Rams dropped the opening set, but took the next two, including Set 3, which featured 14 ties before the Rams claimed the set’s final six points. New Mexico forced a fifth set, and although there were five ties in the deciding set, CSU never trailed, taking the set and match. For the second consecutive contest, four players totaled 10 or more kills, including Paige (16 on .412 hitting), Cranston (15), Plourde (14) and Steffan (11). Steffan also recorded 11 digs and eight blocks, marking her fifth double-double of the season, while Plourde set a season high with 11 blocks. In all, CSU recorded a season-best 19.0 total blocks.

Back to back to back
CSU earned a three-set win over Wyoming on Nov. 4, and less than 24 hours later, TCU fell on the road, giving the Rams 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 between1999-2007). It marks the third straight season that the Rams have led the conference wire-to-wire. In all, CSU has won 15 conference championships (including 1985 HCAC and 1998 WAC), tied with the football program for most conference championships among the university.

Sweet 17
The Rams enter the MW championship with one goal in mind: winning the tournament and earning their 17th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. In 2010, CSU beat Cal State Fullerton in a memorable come-from-behind rally in the opening round before falling to host and No. 3 Stanford the following night. In the 16 years, CSU has gone 17-16 in the tournament, advancing to the Regional Semifinal five times.

750
A win over Air Force on Friday would give the CSU volleyball program its 750th all-time win. The program, which began in 1976, holds a record of 749-373 (.667), and has won 15 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).

How sweep it is
After suffering a heartbreaking defeat at Wyoming on Oct. 8, the Rams didn’t drop a single set for more than a month, sweeping seven consecutive opponents until TCU took the first set in the teams’ Nov. 10 contest. The seven straight sweeps is tied for third most in program history, and longest under the current scoring structure. CSU also rattled off seven sweeps in a row in 1999, eight in 1986 and a school-record 13 later in the 1999 season.

Looking ahead
Upon conclusion of the MW championship on Sunday, the Rams will wrap up their regular-season schedule with a road match against New Mexico State, in Las Cruces, N.M. The match will be played at 12 p.m. MT on Nov. 26. CSU holds an 18-10 record all-time against the Aggies, but New Mexico State stole a victory over the Rams in the final match of the 2009 regular season.

Selection Show
Be the first to know if CSU will play in the NCAA tournament by attending the Beach House on Sunday, Nov. 27, to watch the Selection Show. Fans can arrive at 3:15 to hear Coach Hilbert talk prior to the selection. Then, at  4 p.m. MT, the broadcast will be shown on ESPNU. The upper level of the Beach House will be reserved for Ram fans to watch the announcement, and find out who and where the Rams will be playing.


 

 

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