Volleyball Match Notes: Undefeated Rams make final road trip

CSU will travel to San José State (Thursday, 8 p.m. MT) and Fresno State (Saturday, 12 p.m. MT) for the Rams' final regular-season road trip.

CSU will travel to San José State (Thursday, 8 p.m. MT) and Fresno State (Saturday, 12 p.m. MT) for the Rams' final regular-season road trip.

Nov. 19, 2013

Colorado State Match Notes #16 | San José State Notes | Fresno State Notes
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Match 26: No. 10 Colorado State at San José State

Thursday, Nov. 21 | 8 p.m. MT | The Event Center | San Jose, Calif.

Match 26: No. 10 Colorado State at Fresno State
Saturday, Nov. 23 | 12 p.m. MT | Save Mart Center | Fresno, Calif.


SCOUTING SAN JOSÉ STATE

The San José State Spartans enter Thursday’s match with an 8-19 record on the year, and 5-11in Mountain West play. While the Spartans have struggled away from the Event Center, they have been effective on their home court. San José State has a 5-4 record on the year at home, and are coming off two home victories over San Diego State and UNLV.

As a team, San José State averages 12.82 kills, 14.22 digs and 2.11 blocks per set. The Spartans are led by senior outside hitter Hanah Blume. With 3.61 kills per set, Blume ranks third in the conference in kills, and is fifth with 3.90 points per set. The dynamic attacker also provides versatility for the Spartans, ranking ninth in the MW and first on the team with 3.21 digs per set.

San José State also gets key contributions from junior middle blocker Mary Alice O’Reilly. O’Reilly is second on the team with 2.89 kills per set, and leads the team with 1.04 blocks per set, placing her 10th in the conference.

At the net, sophomore setter Michaela Leonard paces the Spartans’ offense. Leonard currently ranks second in the conference, and No. 30 nationally, with 11.10 assists per set, trailing only CSU’s Deedra Foss. In the back row, junior libero Kiely Peiper pairs with Blume to provide a boost for the Spartans’ defense.

SERIES VS. THE SPARTANS
Overall, CSU is 7-4 against San José State, and is 2-2 all-time against the Spartans while playing in San Jose. After dropping the first three matches in the series, CSU has won seven of the past eight matches. The Rams haven’t played in San Jose since 1997, however, Head Coach Tom Hilbert’s first season with CSU.

CSU is 3-1 against the Spartans under Hilbert, including a sweep last month in Fort Collins. Led by 15 kills from junior outside hitter Marlee Reynolds, CSU hit .488 as a team. The Rams struggled to find an answer for Blume, however, as the senior outside hitter paced the Spartans with 16 kills on .424 hitting.

SCOUTING FRESNO STATE
Fresno State enters the week 17-11 on the year, including 11-5 in the Mountain West, good for second place in the league. Prior to last Saturday’s loss to Utah State, the Bulldogs were still in contention for the conference title. Fresno State hosts Wyoming on Thursday, followed by a match against the Rams on Saturday.

Entering the week, Fresno State has been tough to beat at home, winning five of their last six home matches, including victories over New Mexico and San Diego State, and a five-set loss to UNLV.

The Bulldogs provide one of the toughest serving teams the Rams have faced all season, ranking first in the MW with 1.36 service aces per set. Along with tough serving, Fresno State ranks third in the conference with 13.62 kills per set, and is third with a .234 hitting percentage.

The Bulldogs are led by senior outside hitter Korrin Wild. With 3.73 kills and 4.21points per set, Wild ranks second in the MW in both categories. She also ranks fourth in the conference with 0.31 service aces per set, and in three career matches against the Rams has averaged 4.75 kills, including 23 on .458 hitting in a five-set win in Fresno last year.

On defense, Fresno State is led by its freshman libero, Maggie Eppright, who leads the team with 3.50 digs per set (eighth in MW). At the net, junior middle blocker Maci Murdock paces the team with 0.84 blocks per set.

SERIES VS. THE BULLDOGS
Fresno State is the only current conference opponent to have a winning record against the Rams, winning nine of the 17 matches in the series. CSU is just 1-4 while playing in Fresno, including a five-set loss in 2012.

Earlier this season, however, CSU had better success, sweeping Fresno State at Moby Arena. In the match, senior middle blocker Samantha Peters led the way with nine kills on .500 hitting and eight blocks. Adrianna was one kill shy of a double-double (9k, 10 d), and senior Cayla Broadwater came off the bench in Set 3, sparking a 10-0 run with three blocks.

RECORD-SETTING START
With 25 straight victories, CSU is off to a record-setting start. CSU’s come-from-behind win at Utah State on Nov. 2 helped surpass the 2001 squad’s 20-0 start. The Rams have since won four additional matches.

“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-FIVE IN A ROW
Not only are the Rams off to their best start ever, but the team’s 25-match winning is a program record. CSU passed the 2003 mark on Nov. 14, with their 24th straight victory. In 2003, the Rams won 23 straight matches between Sept. 20 and Dec. 6.

In addition to a program mark, CSU is win shy of a new Mountain West record. The Rams are currently tied with the 2006 Utah squad’s 25-match winning streak.

CSU’s 25 straight victories is the second-longest active streak in the NCAA, only trailing Missouri’s 31. 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 33 consecutive regular-season victories, a program and active NCAA record.

FIVE-PEAT
On Nov. 15, CSU swept Air Force to improve to 16-0 and clinch a share of the Mountain West title. Twenty-four hours later, Utah State defeated Fresno State, eliminating the Bulldogs and giving the Rams the title outright. It marks the fifth consecutive season that CSU has won the Mountain West regular-season title, something that has been matched just one other time (CSU from 2000-04).

With the championship, the Rams earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, CSU’s 19th straight – which ranks seventh actively in the NCAA. Since the formation of the MW in 1999, CSU has won 11 of the 15 regular-season crowns,  in addition to five tournament championship in nine opportunities.

“Our goal at the start of the season was to win the Mountain West, so I’m very proud of these players for accomplishing that goal,” Hilbert said. “However, we’re not satisfied. Now our focus is on winning all of our Mountain West games; that is what we want to do. I don’t want to let the air out of the balloon. We need to stay focused and win matches.”

The fact that CSU locked up the title with two weeks to play is impressive, but making it more impressive is the fact that the Rams won despite being picked to finish second for the first time since 2009. Of the nine times that CSU has not been picked to win the league, the team has done so five times.

Entering 2013, just three other schools had 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, none are currently leading their conference.

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, and has since increased to 15 consecutive 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 10 true road wins in 10 tries — in addition to two neutral-court wins in Malibu, Calif., which are not included in the true road wins figure. CSU has won 17 straight regular-season matches away from Moby Arena, which excludes the Rams’ NCAA tournament loss to Purdue last season.

REMAINING UNDEFEATED
Entering the 13th week of the season, CSU is one of two Division I teams to have yet to lose a match, joining No. 4 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.

REWRITING HISTORY

  • 33 straight regular-season victories (program record; longest active streak NCAA)
  • 25 consecutive wins (program record; ties MW mark; second-longest active streak in NCAA)
  • 21 straight home wins (tied for second in CSU history; third-longest active streak in NCAA)
  • 15 consecutive true road wins (program record)
  • 17 straight wins away from Moby Arena during the regular season (program record)
  • 24 straight Mountain West victories
  • Five weeks in the top 10 of the AVCA top-25 poll (CSU’s highest since 2004)


ANOTHER MILESTONE VICTORY: NO. 600
Considered one of the most successful volleyball coaches in the nation, Head Coach Tom Hilbert earned yet another milestone on Nov. 9: victory No. 600. Less than a year after celebrating his 400th career win at CSU, Hilbert became the 17th active coach to reach 600 career wins. Of those currently at 600, none have coached as few of games as Hilbert. He is of 10 coaches in NCAA Division I women’s volleyball history to reach 600 wins and at least a .770 winning percentage.

HILBERT BY THE NUMBERS

  • Record at CSU: 428-104 (.805) - winningest coach in any sport at CSU.
  • Career record: 602-176 - 17th among active coaches in wins.
  • Career winning percentage: .774 - 10th among active coaches; 15th among all coaches all-time.
  •  17 NCAA tournaments in 17 years in Fort Collins, including 2013.
  • 239-28 (.895) 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.

GETTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT
CSU began its conference-title defense on Sept. 18 by sweeping Wyoming in three tight sets and never looked back, leading the league wire to wire for the fourth time in the past five seasons.

The Rams are 16-0 in MW play, marking the Rams’ best-ever start to conference play. Prior to 2013, the Rams’ best start was 14-0 in 2003. CSU followed up its perfect record in the regular season with three wins in the conference tournament. The only other team to go perfect through its MW slate was the 2006 Utah team, which went 16-0 during the regular season before being upset by CSU in the finals of the MW Championships.

CSU finished the first half of its MW season 10-0, marking the sixth time in the league’s 15-year history that the Rams have gone unbeaten in the first half of MW Play.

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 (39), Penn State (36), Florida (22) and Hawai’i (20) are the only teams to have a longer streak than CSU.

With CSU’s win at Wyoming on Nov. 5, the Rams surpassed their 2012 win total (21-8), and the Rams currently own the most wins since 2010 (26-5). A victory Thursday at San José State would tie for the ninth-most victories in a season, and an additional win Saturday would tie for sixth.

If the Rams can run the table during the regular season (29-0), it would for fourth, with 2001. CSU has had 30 or more victories on three occasions, including a program-record 32 in 2000.

RELOADING, NOT REBUILDING
The Rams’ 25-0 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Of CSU’s starters this season, just one was starting in their current position a year ago.


NO. 10 IN THE POLL
Fort the third consecutive week, the undefeated CSU volleyball team held steady at No. 10 in the AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll. The Rams earned 993 total points, 10 more than a week prior.

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 had 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 62nd total time on Monday, a number that ranks 19th among all programs. All-time, CSU is 424-125 as a ranked team, including 119-23 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, but with each victory, continued to climb the rankings, cracking the top 25 for the first time on Sept. 16. The Rams peaked at No. 9 on Oct. 28, but fell to No. 10 the week following after Minnesota jumped CSU following a win over then-No. 16 Purdue.

In the most recent poll, UC Santa Barbara, which CSU defeated in September, earned two votes after upsetting then-No. 21 Cal State Northridge. Pepperdine, San Diego State and Texas A&M have also been ranked or receiving votes throughout the season.

RPI TRACKING
Four of CSU’s 2013 opponents played in last year’s NCAA tournament, including Northern Colorado (W, 3-0) Pepperdine (W, 3-1), Texas A&M (W, 3-0) and San Diego State (W, 3-1 and Nov. 27). The Aggies were unofficially ranked No. 26 when the two teams met in September, and Pepperdine, San Diego State and UC Santa Barbara have each received votes throughout the season.

Of CSU’s 19 opponents, nine rank in the top 100 in the RPI.

For the second straight week, CSU moved up one spot, to No. 18, in this week’s RPI. CSU has moved up seven total spots in the eight RPI releases. The RPI is based off of three categories: a team’s winning percentage (25 percent), its opponents’ winning percentages (50 percent) and the winning percentage of its opponents’ opponents (25 percent).

The Rams believe they need to be in the top 16 in order to have a good chance of hosting NCAA tournament first- and second-round matches, which they have submitted a bid to do. CSU is one of eight teams nationally to be ranked in the top-50 RPI every season since the index was created in 1999.

FIVE WEEKLY HONORS
Junior setter Deedra Foss was named the Mountain West Women’s Volleyball Player of the Week on Monday, marking CSU’s fifth honor of the season, the most since 2007. Foss and teammate Adrianna Culbert have each earned the honor twice, the only two players in the conference to be recognized multiple times.

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