Chalk up one conference crown for CSU.
Over the weekend in Utah, the CSU volleyball team won its two matches over Utah and Brigham Young to clinch the Mountain West Conference regular season title. The Rams stand at 20-8 overall and 12-2 in conference play.
CSU started the weekend with a four-game win (30-24, 25-30, 30-25, 30-23) in Salt Lake City to knock off the No. 21 Utah Utes for the second time this season. The win also ended a 29-game home winning streak for the Utes.
The Rams relied on a strong defense to shut down Utah’s offensive attack, getting career highs in digs from Lindsey Kerr (29) and Melissa Courtney (18). Becky Sarauer led all players with 18 kills and Tess Rogers followed with 17.
“Melissa was the MVP of our team tonight,” CSU coach Tom Hilbert said. “She had three aces, scored a lot of points in her rotation and knew exactly who to set at the right times throughout the match. Our outside hitters were warriors for us, banging the balls like crazy all night long.”
Lindsey Phillips led the Utes with 14 kills and Kim Turner had nine block assists in a night when the Rams out-killed (72-48), out-blocked (13-9) and out-dug (83-70) the Utes.
“We didn’t play well at all,” Utah head coach Beth Launiere said. “This season, we seem to lose our edge after we’ve won five, six matches. I don’t think we should have lost tonight.”
The win assured the Rams of at least a share of the championship with San Diego State, which knocked off New Mexico earlier in the evening. The Rams would need to avenge a home loss to BYU to win the conference outright.
The Rams went into Provo and snatched up the match in three games (30-26, 30-28, 30-19) to win the regular season championship for the third straight season.
The night belonged to CSU middle blocker Katie Jo Shirley, who led all players with 19 kills, a .484 hitting percentage, and led the Rams with five blocks. Andreya Downs had 12 kills on the outside and added two of the Rams’ five service aces.
“Our middle blockers were doing great things tonight,” Hilbert said. “We didn’t block at all in the first game and a half, but ended the match with eight and did a great job.”
Allison Larsen was the only Cougar with double figures in kills. The Cougars hit .118 for the match and were only able to get 33 kills against a Rams defense that had only eight blocks.
“I think we were flat tonight,” BYU coach Karen Lamb said. “Our serving allowed them to be in their offensive system more frequently than we would’ve liked, and our passing prevented us from being in our offensive system as we would’ve liked.”
As the hosts, the Rams will have home-court advantage next weekend in the MWC tournament, and the wins this weekend earned them the top seed in the tournament. They’ll have a first round match against BYU, who they swept in the regular season.
“I’m really proud of our players,” Hilbert said. “We’ve grown a lot during the second half of the season and have played with a lot of maturity.”