It’s tournament time in volleyball land and that means eight teams are in Fort Collins, where the Rams are hosting the Mountain West Conference Championship tournament.
As the No. 1 seed, the Rams are hoping to win this tournament so they can get into the NCAA Tournament for the seventh straight year. In order to do so they will have to break a two-year curse in which they have lost in the championship match to a Utah team.
In 2000, BYU beat the Rams in five games at Moby. Last year Utah stole the crown from the Rams in Provo in another five-game shocker.
“Everyone on our team’s aware that no CSU team has won both the regular season and tournament championships, so we all have that in the back of our minds I think,” CSU assistant coach Karrie Larsen said.
This is the third straight year the Rams have held the No. 1 seed in the tournament, this year allowing them to start off against the 2-12 Air Force Falcons. The Rams swept the Falcons with three-game wins in both matches this season, and eliminated the Falcons in first-round matches in both the 2000 and 2001 tournaments.
With only two starters from last year’s team, these Rams are fairly inexperienced in the tournament atmosphere.
“The tournament is kind of like a new season,” Larsen said. “Every team feels like they have a chance and every team plays tougher, so you can’t take any match for granted.”
Though the Rams are young and fairly inexperienced in MWC Tournament play, they bring to the table arguably the most talented team in the conference.
The Rams finished the regular season tops in the conference in every statistical category except blocks and digs. Middle blocker Katie Jo Shirley leads the conference with a .348 hitting percentage, and setter Melissa Courtney’s 13.26 assists per game also tops the conference.
Tess Rogers is second in kills per game with 3.89 and has broken the conference record for kills by a freshman with 373.
The first match today is between No. 3 Utah and No. 6 Wyoming at 11 a.m. The Utes will try to make it two in a row over the Cowgirls after beating them in four games last weekend.
The 1:30 p.m. match will feature No. 2 San Diego State against No. 7 New Mexico. This will be the second first round meeting between these two teams in three years, as the Aztecs won a five-game match over the Lobos in 2000.
The No. 4 BYU Cougars will take on No. 5 UNLV at 4 p.m. The teams split their matches during the regular season with each team winning at home.
The Rams and the Falcons close out the day at 7 p.m.
Thursday’s winners will advance to Friday’s semifinal round that will serve up at 4 p.m. The championship match is slated for Saturday night at 7 p.m.