Sep 042002
Authors: Lee Miller

There/s no place like home, especially when two of your first four matches are against top 25 teams.

Ram volleyball will have its hands full tonight when it hosts No. 5 Long Beach State at 7 p.m. in Moby Arena. Last week, CSU topped off No. 22 Kansas State.

After winning the University Park Holiday Inn Classic last weekend as hosts, the Rams (3-0) hold on to their No. 18 ranking in the USA Today/AVCA Division I coaches poll. Long Beach State (4-0) is currently the highest ranked team the Rams will face this season.

/The match against Long Beach State will be a lot different than the ones we saw (Friday and Saturday),/ head coach Tom Hilbert said. /The 49ers will be moving the ball around with a lot more control, they will be much more athletic, and there/s going to be a lot more blocking./

The number of blocks is only the tip of the iceberg. Last weekend, the 49ers steamrolled through four opponents at their own tournament, the Mizuno Invitational. They turned in their best performance against Dayton, holding the Flyers to a .10 hitting percentage for the match.

For the tournament, the 49ers had a team hitting percentage of .322, compared to the Rams .230 totaled in the UPHI tournament.

Long Beach State has been a national powerhouse in women/s volleyball, playing in 16 NCAA tournaments in the last 18 years. In that time, The Beach has reached eight Final Fours and won three national championships.

/We/re going to have to take control of the tempo early in the match and hold it,/ Hilbert said. /We also need a big game from the outside, but most importantly, we need to improve on our passing game./

The passing game was responsible for many of the errors the Rams committed over the course of last weeks tournament, and the Rams have no doubt that there will be little room for mistakes when they play Long Beach State.

The 49ers return three starters from last year, but their newer players have already made a huge impact on the team.

Seniors Elisha Thomas and Brittany Hochevar anchor the team with a lot of experience and some very impressive career numbers.

Hochevar is versatile as a setter and an outside hitter. She is beginning her third season as a starter and is a two-time All-Big West player. She looks to break a school record in aces (153) and is sixth all-time in assists (1423).

Thomas is also a two-time All-Big West player and ranks fifth all-time at The Beach with a.355 hitting percentage and seventh in blocks (278).

Sophomore middle blocker Kessie Doering has made presence known in here 49er debuts, racking up 3.17 kills per game in the first four matches, good enough to rank second on the team.

The Rams are looking for more good performances on the outside from freshmen Tess Rogers and Dre Downs. They will also need to keep up the good work on defense, which was important in winning the games last weekend.

The match starts at 7 p.m. tonight at Moby Arena.

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