CSU's four seniors are one win away from winning a fourth Mountain West championship.
Nov. 21, 2012
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RAMS VS. LOBOS - THE MATCHUP
Friday, Nov. 23 | 7 p.m. MT | Moby Arena (8,745) | Fort Collins, Colo.
About New Mexico
CSU will look to avenge its loss to New Mexico from earlier in the season when the Rams lost to the Lobos in their conference opener. Friday's match vs. New Mexico will wrap up the regular season, and the Mountain West championship will be on the line.
The Lobos open the week at 20-11, including a 7-7 record in Mountain West action (does not include New Mexico's match vs. Wyoming on Wednesday). New Mexico has had its share of ups and downs on the road, though, posting a 4-5 mark away from Albuquerque.
New Mexico couples its strong serving with some very tough defense. The Lobos rank third in the conference with 1.29 service aces per set, and are led by Ashley Newman in that department. Newman is second in the Mountain West with 0.31 service aces per set.
On defense, while New Mexico ranks fifth in blocks (2.39 per set) and seventh in digs (14.03), the Lobos are second in the conference in opponent hitting percentage, just behind CSU, at .149.
The team is led by all-around right-side hitter Chantale Riddle. Riddle leads the entire conference with 4.18 kills and 4.89 points per set. The sophomore also ranks seventh in the conference with 1.10 blocks per set.
The Lobos have multiple threats at setter, with two players averaging around five assists per set--Hannah Johnson (5.08) and Russell Jordan (4.63). Junior Miquella Lovata leads the team with 4.40 digs per set, a mark that puts her at second in the Mountain West.
New Mexico has one of the youngest teams in the nation with only one senior (Jordan) on the roster, and eight players listed as freshmen or sophomores. The Lobos are coached by Jeff Nelson, who has gone 112-66 in his six-plus seasons in Albuquerque. New Mexico has notched four winning seasons under Nelson's guidance, including four 20-win seasons and two trips to the NCAA tournament.
Series vs. the Lobos
The series vs. New Mexico dates back to the Rams' first season, 1976. As conference foes throughout the years, the two teams have faced each other each season at least once, except for 1996 and 1998. In all, the Rams hold a 44-23 advantage, including a 23-8 mark in Fort Collins. Since CSU Head Coach Tom Hilbert took over as coach in 1997, the Rams are 29-3 against the Lobos, with all three losses coming on the road (2005, 2010 and 2012).
New Mexico came out on top in five sets when the two teams faced each other earlier this year in Albuquerque. The Rams won the first two sets of that match before the Lobos came storming back.
Alijah Gunsaulus led the way for New Mexico with 14 kills and 13 digs, while Riddle chipped in with 11 kills and 10 digs. Megan Plourde led CSU with 13 kills and 11 blocks, but as a team, the Rams were only able to hit .143.
Prior to the match, CSU's four seniors--Dana Cranston, Izzy Gaulia, Brieon Paige and Megan Plourde--will be honored with a brief presentation on the court. Between the four starters, the 2012 Senior Class has accumulated 95 total wins, including a half-dozen against nationally ranked opponents. They've been part of attendance records and program milestones, and with a win Friday, will continue the longstanding tradition of volleyball excellence at CSU by earning a berth to the program's 18th consecutive NCAA tournament and winning a fourth straight Mountain West championship. Currently, only three players in CSU volleyball history have won a conference championship all four years of their career. What's more, between the foursome, there are five All-Mountain West selections, three 2011 All-Tournament awards and one AVCA All-America honor--with hopefully more to come in 2012.
"Between those four players, there's 15 years of starting experience, and that's a lot of experience," Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. "But it's so much more than what they bring to the court statistically. Their leadership and their presence, and everyone's comfort level around them is what makes this group special. That's why they are such a big deal."
$2 off promotion
Fans can watch Friday's home finale for a reduced prize. Throughout the week, members of the volleyball program have been distributing $2-off coupons to the community at various locations. Fans can also pick up a coupon at the McGraw Athletic Center ticket office. With the coupon, general-admission tickets are just $4, while youth tickets are $2. Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone at 1-800-491-RAMS or at the ticket office.
What's at stake
The Rams have been playing on thin ice for nearly a month now, knowing that one slipup could cost the team its Mountain West title hopes and the program's run of 17 consecutive NCAA tournaments. After falling at San Diego State on Sept. 27, CSU has rattled off seven consecutive victories--including five on the road--to set up Friday's match for the conference championship. After Tuesday's win over Nevada, San Diego clinched at least a share of the 2012 title with a record of 13-3. However, CSU can still earn its fourth straight championship by winning on Friday. With a victory over New Mexico, the Rams and Aztecs will finish the regular season tied, and thus be co-champions. However, since CSU beat San Diego State in three sets in September, and the Aztecs defeated the Rams in four sets in October, CSU would win the tiebreaker and get the Mountain West's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. If this is the case, San Diego State could still receive an at-large bid.
HOW TO FOLLOW:
Video: For all home matches, CSU offers live video streaming through its All Access subscription.
Audio: KCSU will broadcast the match live from Moby Arena. Tune in to 90.5 FM locally or www.KCSUFM.com worldwide to listen to the call.
Live Stats: Online statistics will be provided through Gametracker.
Twitter: As always, CSU's athletic department will tweet live updates and results from the CSU Rams Gameday Twitter account: @CSURamsGameday.
Selection Show watch party
Fans are encouraged to join Head Coach Tom Hilbert and the entire team at C.B. & Potts on Sunday at 1 p.m. for the NCAA tournament selection show. Prior to the announcement, Hilbert will talk with the crowd about what he expects. The pairings will be made beginning at 2 p.m. on ESPNU. Following the announcement, Hilbert will again address the crowd and will be available for interviews with members of the media.
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