LARAMIE, Wyo. – The Rams’ volleyball team silenced 2,231 heckling Cowgirl fans Friday night with a four-game victory over the University of Wyoming.
CSU won the first two games 30-26 and 30-19 before falling in game three 30-19. The Rams then put the match away in game four, 30-11.
The Rams’ victory and San Diego State’s loss to No. 22 Utah leaves CSU (15-7, 7-1 MWC) in sole possession of the lead in the Mountain West. There are six conference matches remaining before the conference tournament comes to Fort Collins, Nov. 21-23.
In game one the Rams wrestled the Cowgirls for the win and the momentum. Both teams struggled to take the early lead.
“The first game was very competitive,” said Jim Barnes, the Cowgirls’ head coach. “Momentum is so important in this game.”
Freshman outside hitter, Andreya Downs led the Rams with four kills, no errors and a .667 hitting average in the game – all while still recovering from a shoulder injury.
“(Downs) still isn’t swinging during the week because of her shoulder,” head coach, Tom Hilbert said.
Junior outside hitter Michele Rauter led the Cowgirls with five kills and a .714 average.
The Rams seized the momentum and carried it into the second game. Sophomore libero Lindsey Kerr picked up five defensive digs to help CSU hold the Cowgirls to a .079 team hitting average.
The Cowgirls didn’t help their cause by committing nine errors as a team, with sophomore middle blocker Jill Roslund picking up three of those on her own.
“We gotta fight them at the net,” Wyoming assistant coach Melissa Ferris told her team in the huddle before the third game.
And that’s exactly what they did. Wyoming rotated its lineup and came out swinging to take an early 7-3 lead. It was a lead the Rams would not overcome.
The sign outside the locker rooms at Arena-Auditorium reads “Elevation 7,200 feet. How’s your oxygen?” It seemed the Rams were running on empty.
“We hit a .026 average. It wouldn’t have even been that good if we hadn’t had a comeback at the end,” Hilbert said.
CSU put up a 7-2 run at the end of game three to try and swing the momentum back into their favor for an important fourth game.
“Once they have a 14-point lead you know you’re just playing for momentum in game four and we did that,” Hilbert said.
Senior middle blocker Michelle Knox had been taken out of game three but came back determined in game four. Her six kills on six attempts led the team to the dominating 30-11 victory.
“We had to play with more passion in the fourth game,” Knox said. “We just went back to our original game plan and focused on blocking and serving.”
Outside hitter Tess Rogers also had a solid performance in the game with two kills on two attempts. She finished the match with a four service aces and a solo block.
“We blocked the ball well all match long, that’s especially key against face-paced teams like Wyoming,” Hilbert said.
Next weekend CSU will take to the road for matches against UNLV and San Diego State in an effort to put some distance between them and the rest of the conference.
-Edited by Jon Ackerman and Josh Hardin