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Match notes: CSU volleyball says 'Aloha' from Hawaii

The Rams, winners of the MW tournament, earned their 17th straight berth in the NCAA tournament.

The Rams, winners of the MW tournament, earned their 17th straight berth in the NCAA tournament.

Nov. 29, 2011

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NCAA tournament history

Thursday will mark CSU's 44th all-time NCAA tournament match, as the Rams have appeared in the last 17 tournaments dating back to 1995. In its history, CSU has played in 22 tournaments entering this week, going 21-22. The Rams have won their first match each of the last four seasons, and have advanced to the regional semifinals (Sweet 16) five times, most recently in 2009. For a full listing of CSU's tournament matches, see page 3.

The road to the Final Four begins Thursday at Hawaii's Stan Sheriff Center against the Oregon Ducks, an at-large qualifier from the Pac-12. Oregon (21-9) is ranked No. 13 nationally. The Rams and Ducks have met just one prior time, a CSU loss in 1984. The match begins at 5 p.m. Hawaii-Aleutian time (8 p.m. MT). Immediately following, Big Sky champion Northern Colorado (22-8) will face host and No. 10 seed Hawaii (29-1), who is ranked No. 3 nationally. The two winners will meet in the regional quarterfinals the following night at 7 p.m. local time (10 p.m. MT).

Access to the matches
Fans from across the country can follow all the action in multiple ways. CSU's match vs. Oregon on Thursday, and all CSU matches following, will be broadcast on CSU's student-run radio network, KCSU. Those in the Fort Collins area can dial in at 90.5 FM, while those from around the country can listen to Eric Dewey call the action by streaming it live on www.KCSUFM.com.

Streaming video is also available for all NCAA tournament matches. Fans can access the live feeds for each region by using the interactive bracket at www.NCAA.com. Fans can also track the action live via Gametracker live statistics. Links to live stats feeds can also be found using the interactive bracket on www.NCAA.com.

Rams advancing in the bracket
The Rams enter their first-round matchup with Oregon looking to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the fifth consecutive season. The Rams have advanced to Round 2 16 times in 22 previous NCAA tournaments, including 11 of 14 appearances under Head Coach Tom Hilbert.

A win Thursday would . . .
• Advance CSU to the second round of the NCAA tournament, facing off against the winner between Hawaii and Northern Colorado, Friday at 7 p.m. local time (10 p.m. MT).
• Mark the fifth straight year that the Rams will have advanced to the second round of the tournament. CSU has not lost in the first round since 2006.
• Improve the Rams' record to 22-22 all-time in the NCAA tournament, including 16-14 under Hilbert.
• Give CSU its first win against Oregon.
• Mark CSU's first win in 10 tries in Hawaii.

A win Friday would . . .
• Advance CSU to the regional semifinals for the sixth time in program history and the second time in the past three years. The Rams would then return to Hawaii next week to compete in the regional semifinals.
• Either give CSU its 10th straight win over Northern Colorado or first-ever win vs. Hawaii.
• [If against Hawaii] Give CSU back-to-back wins against ranked teams for the first time since sweeping No. 19 Utah and No. 14 BYU on consecutive nights, Oct. 5 and 6, 2001.
• [If against Hawaii] Would be the highest-ranked team CSU has ever beaten on a true road court (Note: CSU beat No. 1 UCLA in 2000 on a neutral court; the highest-ranked team CSU has beaten on a true road court is No. 9 BYU in 1999 and No. 9 Florida in 2000).

Against the field
Six of CSU's 2011 opponents are in this year's NCAA tournament, with the Rams having success, going 4-2 against those teams. CSU swept Middle Tennessee in the season's opening weekend, part of the Arkansas Invitational, before falling to then-No. 17 Oklahoma. The Rams then had a signature win against then-No. 5 Nebraska, followed up the next night win a win over Albany. The next weekend, in the Rams Volleyball Classic, CSU dropped its only home loss of the season, to Wichita State, before rebounding against Northern Colorado.

Frequent Flyers
Denver International Airport and the University of Hawaii are separated by 3,340 miles of land and water, making CSU the farthest-traveling team in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Rams have been racking up their frequent-flyer miles lately, traveling from DIA to Fort Worth, Texas, in mid-November, followed by a flight to Albuquerque and back home. The following weekend, the Rams were back in Albuquerque for the Mountain West tournament, and last weekend, they traveled from Denver to El Paso, Texas, with a layover in Las Vegas, followed by a drive to Las Cruces, N.M.

Road warriors
CSU played just 12 games at Moby Arena this year, its fewest total in nearly two decades. The last time the Rams played so few home matches was in 1983, when just seven of the team's 39 matches were played in Fort Collins.

What's more, the Rams haven't played a match at Moby Arena in nearly four weeks, dating back to Nov. 4. CSU has played six consecutive matches away from its home court, and will play at least one--and up to six--NCAA tournament matches on the road before the season concludes.

A win Thursday against Oregon could set up CSU against host Hawaii, the nation's leader in attendance at 6,497 fans per match. Hawaii's Stan Sheriff Center holds eight of the nation's top 10 attendances this season, including 9,692 fans vs. Pepperdine on Sept. 17. However, hostile venues are nothing new for the Rams, whose last three true road matches have come in gyms that rank in the top 25 in national attendance (TCU, 20; New Mexico, 16; New Mexico State, 22).

Momentum going in
The Rams enter the NCAA tournament riding a five-match win streak, the third time this season the team has had a streak of at least five matches. It is their longest win streak entering the NCAA tournament since the Rams won their final six matches entering the 2004 tournament. Between 2005 and 2010, CSU lost a match in the final week of the regular season or the MW tournament.

Winless in Hawaii
The Rams will be making their sixth trip to the Aloha State, and will do so looking to reverse a trend. CSU is winless in its five prior trips to Hawaii, going 0-9. CSU is 0-3 against the Rainbow Wahine in Honolulu, and 0-6 against neutral opponents. The Rams have played in two NCAA tournament matches at Hawaii's Stan Sheriff Center, falling to Long Beach State in the 1999 regional semifinals and Washington in the first round of the 2002 tournament.

Hilbert against ranked teams
CSU is 1-1 against ranked teams in 2011, beating then-No. 5 Nebraska and falling to then-No. 17 Oklahoma. CSU's first opponent, No. 13 Oregon, will be CSU's third ranked foe of the season. If the Rams advance, there is a possibility they will play against No. 3 Hawaii, meeting ranked teams in consecutive matches for the second time this season.

In 15 seasons in Fort Collins, Hilbert is 38-44 against ranked teams. During his time, his teams have knocked off some notable teams, including nine wins against top-10 teams. However, a win over Hawaii in the second round would be the highest ranked team that CSU has beaten in a true road environment. The Rams' wins over No. 9 BYU (Nov. 27, 1999) and No. 9 Florida (Aug. 25, 2000) currently stand as the highest-ranked wins on an opponent's home court. However, CSU did beat No. 1 UCLA (Aug. 26, 2000) in a neutral-site match.

CSU at a glance: The Rams are in the NCAA tournament for the 17th consecutive year, and 15th under the direction of Head Coach Tom Hilbert. After losing four starters from its 2010 roster, CSU surprised many with its success in 2011, ranking as high as No. 14 in September. CSU's milestone win of the season came early, on Sept. 2, when the Rams knocked off then-No. 5 Nebraska in front of a program and conference-record 6,750 fans at Moby Arena. Led by Mountain West player of the year Katelyn Steffan, the team captain and only senior, CSU won its third consecutive regular-season conference title and earned the No. 1 seed entering the MW tournament. There, the Rams swept the competition, winning their fifth tournament championship, to go along with their nine MW regular-season titles. Another major contributor is junior Megan Plourde, the nation's No. 1 blocker entering this week. Plourde and Brieon Paige were named to the league's all-conference team, while setter Deedra Foss, a redshirt freshman, was named the newcomer of the year.

Seed: N/A
Record: 23-5 (12-2 MW)
AVCA Ranking: RV
Head Coach: Tom Hilbert
Record at CSU: 381-95

Oregon: The Ducks are back in the NCAA tournament for the fifth time in six seasons. Under head coach Jim Moore, the Ducks are 4-3 in postseason play, earning trips to the Sweet 16 in 2007 and 2008. In 2011, Oregon finished sixth in the Pac-12, its third upper-division finish under Moore, and earned several big wins throughout the season. The first came in the season's first week, when Oregon snapped No. 1 Penn State's 94-match home win streak with a 3-1 win in Happy Valley. In all, Oregon is very tested, playing 12 ranked teams, including 11 ranked in the top 10. Oregon, ranked No. 13 entering the tournament, picked up five wins against ranked teams, including three in the final weeks of the season--against No. 1 UCLA, at No. 5 Stanford and at No. 3 California. The Ducks are led by junior Alaina Bergsma, a 6-3 outside hitter. Bergsma, who was named Miss Oregon last weekend, averages 4.44 kills, 5.06 points and 0.26 aces per set, all team highs and fourth in the Pac-12. Her kill and point averages rank 17th and 14th nationally. Setter Lauren Plum, a sophomore, ranks 10th nationally with 11.70 assists per set. As a team, the Ducks rank 14th in assists and eighth in kills.

Seed: N/A
Record: 21-9 (14-8 Pac-12)
AVCA Ranking:  13
Head Coach: Jim Moore
Record at Oregon: 117-69
Series:  Oregon leads, 1-0

Series history:
• The Rams and Ducks have met just one previous time, a 2-1 Oregon win.
• The match was played in the 1984 regular-season National Invitational Tournament in Los Angeles, Calif. Oregon was ranked No. 18 at the time.
• In the match, CSU's Sherri Danielson recorded 25 kills, fifth-most all-time in a three-set match.

Hawaii: Arguably the most storied program in women's volleyball history, the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine is back in the NCAA tournament for the 30th consecutive season. Hawaii, which went undefeated in the WAC this season, has won 16 straight conference titles. All of this has been under the direction of head coach Dave Shoji, the only coach Hawaii has ever known. Shoji has been leading the Rainbow Wahine for 37 seasons, and during his time has become the second winningest coach all-time, and has led Hawaii to four national championships. Hawaii, currently ranked No. 3 nationally, is riding a 24-match win streak dating back to Sept. 4, a 3-1 loss to then-No. 12 UCLA, its only loss of the season. The Rainbow Wahine have four wins over top-25 teams. Kanani Danielson, a senior outside hitter, leads the Rainbow Wahine offense with 4.04 kills per set on .295 hitting. She also averages 2.95 digs and 0.62 blocks per set. Sophomore Emily Hartong is the team's most efficient attacker, hitting .373 (22nd nationally), while Brittany Hewitt, a junior, ranks 22nd with 1.35 blocks per set. As a team, Hawaii ranks 17th nationally in blocks (2.72 per set), second in hitting percentage (.298) and 13th in kills per set (14.38).

Seed: 10
Record: 29-1 (14-0 WAC)
AVCA Ranking:  3
Head Coach: Dave Shoji
Record at Hawaii: 1,074-180
Series:  Hawaii leads, 7-0

Series history:
• CSU is winless against Hawaii, going 0-7 all-time and dropping 20 of the 28 sets.
• The last time the two teams met was in 2007, during the Asics Challenge.
• The last time two CSU players recorded 20-plus kills in a match was against Hawaii, when Jaime Strauss and Mekena Barnes did so in 2007.
• In 1984, CSU recorded 236 attacks against Hawaii, which still stands as fifth most all-time.
• CSU played in front of a crowd of 7,801 in 1996. The match, which still stands as the largest crowd the Rams have ever played in front of--home or away--took place at Hawaii.
• There have been 15 triple-doubles in CSU history. The second ever, performed by Lori McMillan, happened in a 1984 match against Hawaii.

Northern Colorado: The Bears are back in the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons, winning the Big Sky Conference regular-season title and the conference tournament. UNC and CSU, located just 35 miles apart, have played annually since 2007. In September, CSU swept UNC at Moby Arena. The Bears have four players with two or more kills per set, led by Kelley Arnold, a junior from Berthoud, Colo. Arnold averages 3.87 kills per set on .296 hitting. She also is the team's second-leading blocker with 0.83 blocks per set. Junior Marissa Hughes averages 11.15 assists per set, good for 27th in the nation. As a team, UNC ranks 12th nationally in assists, 17th in kills per set and 23rd in digs per set.

Seed: N/A
Record: 22-8 (13-3 Big Sky)
AVCA Ranking:  NR
Head Coach: Lyndsey Benson
Record at UNC: 121-89
Series:  CSU leads, 15-6

Series history:
• The rivalry between CSU and Northern Colorado dates back to 1976, CSU volleyball's first season.
• The Rams hold a 15-6 advantage, winning 10 consecutive since 1982.
• The two teams met earlier this season, a 3-0 CSU win at Moby Arena. In the match, junior Brieon Paige led CSU with 12 kills on .500 hitting. Senior Katelyn Steffan added 10 kills, junior Dana Cranston tallied nine and middle blocker Megan Plourde stuffed eight Northern Colorado attacks. The win earned CSU the Rams Volleyball Classic championship.


 

 

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