Nov. 28, 2006
NCAA Tournament First & Second Round Notes
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Even Dozen: For the 12th straight season, Colorado State will play in the NCAA Tournament. This will be the first time the Rams will play in Boulder in postseason action. Colorado State earned the Mountain West's automatic bid by winning the tournament.
Old Hat: This is also the 12th straight season the Rams have won 20 matches in a season and the 18th time in school history. CSU is 20-9 this year.
Familiar Faces: Colorado State faces Washington in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, marking the third time in the last five years the two teams have met in postseason play. The Huskies knocked the Rams out of the tournament in the First Round in Honolulu in 2002 and in the Second Round last season in Moby Arena en route to the national title. This is also the third straight year and the fifth time in the last seven years the Buffaloes and Rams have played in the NCAA Tournament in the same gym.
We Are The Champions: In extreme comeback fashion, the Rams upset #9 Utah in the championship of the Mountain West Tournament to win the title in five games, 25-30, 19-30, 34-32, 30-20, 15-10. The Rams were down 20-11 in game three and faced one match point before winning 34-32. This is the fourth tournament title for the Rams since 1999, more than any other Mountain West team. The Rams also defeated TCU and San Diego State in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
All-Tournament: Sophomore outside hitter Jaime Strauss was named the MVP of the Mountain West Tournament, after recording double figure kills in all three matches and hitting .311 for the tournament, with 4.33 kills per game. She tied her career-high with 24 kills in the four-game win over TCU in the quarterfinals. Sophomore middle blocker Mekana Barnes and sophomore setter Ashley Fornstrom were also named all-tournament. Barnes tallied a career-high 24 kills and tied her career-high with nine blocks in the finals against Utah, while Fornstrom came back from a sprained ankle suffered in both the quarterfinals and semifinals to average 11.83 assists, 1.08 kills, 2.00 digs and 0.83 blocks per game, as well as a .423 hitting percentage.
Lucky Number 24: Three times in the last five matches a Ram has notched 24 kills in a match. Mekana Barnes did it against Utah in the championship match of the conference tournament, while Jaime Strauss did so in the quarterfinals against TCU and against BYU in the last weekend of regular season play.
All-Conference: Both Mekana Barnes and junior right side hitter Tonya Mokelki were named to the Mountain West All-Conference team, as voted on by the league coaches. This is the first award for both student-athletes.
Elite Company: Colorado State is one of just 10 teams in Division I to advance to the last 12 NCAA Tournaments. Only Penn State, Stanford and UC Santa Barbara have appeared in all 26 tournaments.
Digging In: Senior outside hitter Katherine Whitney tallied her 300th dig of the season against San Diego State in the semifinals and has 319 this year. Freshman libero Katelin Batten also has 418 digs, marking the first time since 2000 the Rams have had two players with more than 300 digs in a season. It is also only the seventh time in school history two players have achieved that feat in the same year (2000, 99, 97, 93, 92, 86).
Spreading The Wealth: Three different players (Mekana Barnes, Tonya Mokelki and Jaime Strauss) have all tallied 20 or more kills twice this year. It is only the fifth time in school history three different players have hit the 20-kill mark multiple times in the same season. Last season, Casey Bauer, Dre Downs and Tess Rogers all did it, while in 2003, Rogers, Becky Sarauer and Katie Jo Shirley hit the milestone. In 1996, Rainie Rogers, Janie Penfield and Judy Rexroth did it and in 1987, Jill Johnson, Angie Knox and Diane Saba all had 20 kills multiple times.
Going The Distance: Colorado State has played in seven five-game matches this season (3-4), the most since the 1990 team played in 10 that went the full length (3-7).
Closing In: Katelin Batten has 418 digs this year, needing just 20 more to become the single-season leader at Colorado State. Batten's digs currently rank fourth on the CSU charts. Katherine Whitney also currently ranks 20th on the list with 319 digs and her 436 digs from last year ranks second.
Earning Respect: Colorado State is receiving votes in this week's AVCA Coaches poll for the first time this year since the preseason poll. The Rams received eight points after their upset win over #9 Utah in the tournament finals.
Versatility A Plus: Junior Amanda Fahnestock saw time as both a middle blocker and an outside hitter during the Mountain West Tournament. Against TCU in the quarterfinals, she led the team with a .412 hitting percentage, while she led the team with six blocks and four aces against San Diego State. For the week, Fahnestock hit .286, averaging 1.73 kills, 0.36 aces and 0.82 blocks per game.
Serving Specialists: Both junior Jenni Hirneisen and senior Lindsey Hillegass were put into the rotation especially to serve during the MWC Tournament. Hirneisen had four aces, all in the championship match, while Hillegass had two aces, nine assists and nine digs in her nine games.
It's Been A While: Against BYU, both Katherine Whitney (21) and Katelin Batten (23) recorded over 20 digs. The last time there were two Rams with 20 or more digs in the same match was Nov. 26, 2000 when Soraya Santos (24) and Krista Swartzendruber (23) did it at Pacific.
Aces High: Colorado State served a season-high 11 aces in the championship match against Utah. Jenni Hirneisen led the way with four, while Ashley Fornstrom, Katherine Whitney and Katelin Batten each added two.
Best In The Mountain West: Colorado State ended the Mountain West conference season leading the league in both kills (16.77) and assists (15.27) per game. The Rams also ended third in blocks (2.81) and second in opponent hitting percentage (.163). It is the fifth time in the last six years the Rams have led the league in kills per game and the seventh time in the eight years of the conference CSU has led in assists per game.
Aces Are Wild: This season there are eight players on the team with 10 or more service aces, marking just the seventh time in school history the feat has been accomplished and the first time since 1994 (1993, 1991, 1990, 1988, 1984). Mekana Barnes leads the way with 30 aces, while Ashley Fornstrom and Katherine Whitney have 27 each, Lindsey Hillegass has 20, Katelin Batten has 18, Amanda Fahnestock has 16, Jaime Strauss has 11 and Tonya Mokelki has 10.
Blockhead: Freshman middle blocker Tessa Nelson recorded her 100th career block against UNLV and now has 114. She became just the seventh freshman in school history to tally 100 or more blocks in a season and is the third on this season's team (Mekana Barnes, Ashley Fornstrom). Nelson ranks fifth on the freshman list, needing six to tie Angela Knopf -- the best blocker in school history -- for fourth.
Leaving A Legacy: Katherine Whitney ranks 12th on the Colorado State career digs chart with 903, needing 32 to tie Diane Saba (935, 1983-87) and Whitney is now the best defensively among three year players in school history.
Milestones: Several Rams hit milestones during the Mountain West Tournament.
Mekana Barnes notched her 500th kill and now has 533.
Tonya Mokelki recorded her 600th kill against San Diego State and now has 603.
Jaime Strauss tallied her 400th kill against Utah and now has 403.
Katherine Whitney had her 400th career assist and now has 405.
Whitney also had her 900th dig at Colorado State against Utah and now has 903.
Win 250: Head Coach Tom Hilbert won his 250th match at Colorado State against Denver. Hilbert is now 261-63 (.806) in his 10th season with the Rams. He is now just 39 wins shy of becoming the all-time winningest coach in school history as Rich Feller currently holds the record with 299 victories.
Triple Threat: Ashley Fornstrom recorded the first triple double this season in the Mountain West Conference and the first at Colorado State since Angela Knopf in 2001. Her triple double against Wyoming is only the 14th in school history and she tallied 53 assists, a career-high tying 14 digs and a career-high 11 blocks. For her efforts, she was named the Mountain West Co-Player of the week.
By The Numbers:
Mekana Barnes needs seven kills for the 300th this season.
Katelin Batten is 20 digs shy of breaking the single-season school record of 437.
Ashley Fornstrom is four blocks shy of her 200th.
Fornstrom needs five assists to move into 15th on the single-season charts.
Lindsey Hillegass needs three digs for 100.
Jaime Strauss is eight digs shy of 400 for her career.
Katherine Whitney needs 33 digs for 11th on the CSU career charts.
Over The Airwaves: The majority of Colorado State's matches this season can be heard on Yahoo.com. Cole Weinman will be doing the play-by-play, while Lance Moorman will be handling the color commentary. Every CSU match in the NCAA Tournament will be available on both Yahoo.com and 90.5 KCSU FM.
Scouting The Opposition:
Washington: The Huskies are the third-ranked team in the nation and the defending national champions. They posted a 25-4 regular season record, as well as a perfect 13-0 record at home. Both Washington and Colorado State played California this year, with the Rams losing in four and Washington sweeping the series.
Pac-10 Player of the Year Christal Morrison leads the Huskies with 4.80 kills per game and 27 aces, while middle blocker Jessica Swarbrick is hitting a team-best .406 with 1.35 blocks per game. Senior setter Courtney Thompson leads the nation with 14.92 assists per game, while libero Tamari Miyashiro is averaging 5.50 digs per contest.
This is the second straight season Washington has had to play in the state of Colorado for the First and Second Rounds, as the Huskies played in Moby Arena last year.
In the match last season, Morrison led the Huskies with 19 kills against the Rams, while Alesha Deesing hit .545 (6-0-11) and Thompson had 49 assists. For the Rams still on the team, Mekana Barnes notched seven kills, while Tonya Mokelki led the match with three aces and Fornstrom had 30 assists.
The Other Match: Colorado faces New Mexico State in the 7:00 p.m. match on Thursday. The Rams have not played either team this season, but owns a 19-11 record all-time against Colorado and an 18-9 record against New Mexico State. Last season, the Rams defeated the Buffs in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, while they have won five straight against New Mexico State.