For the Colorado State women’s volleyball team, its youth and a University of Washington block cut short their ninth straight trip in the NCAA Tournament, falling to the Huskies 30-26, 25-30, 22-30 and 27-30 in a first round match in Honolulu, Hawaii Thursday night.
“Our youth came through a bit,” said CSU coach Tom Hilbert. “We were a bit error prone, that was the name of the game.”
For the evening, the Huskies outblocked the Rams 12-4. All 12 of their blocks came after game one.
Michelle Knox led the Rams with 19 kills and Andreya Downs, Becky Sarauer and Katie Jo Shirley each put down 12 apiece.
The first game featured 14 ties, the last coming at 26-all. Tess Rogers served two aces and Andreya Downs hit the ball off the Washington players to end the game,
Downs had six kills and Michelle Knox put down four in the first game. The team had 18 kills and just four errors for a .424 attack percentage.
In the second game, the Rams committed three errors early on, falling behind 6-5. A Washington service error tied the game at 7 and the Huskies then went on a 7-3 run to put the game out of reach. The Rams got no closer than 3 points the rest of the way as the Washington block started to warm up.
In game three, the Husky block started to affect the CSU hitters. Knox said her team was forced to, “hit high and over the block.” The result was 10 hitting errors compared to just three for the Huskies.
“They started to focus on Michelle (Knox) and stopped her with some soft blocking. Then they started stuffing her and our other hitters,” said Hilbert. “That was in a lot of out of system play and to their credit, they did a good job shutting down our players.”
Whenever the Rams started to chip away at the Washington lead, the Huskies turned to outside hitters Paige Benjamin and Sanja Tomasevic to terminate the rally. The two led the Huskies with 23 and 16 kills.
“They are a very good sideout team,” said Hilbert.
The Rams fell behind 6-0 due to three hitting errors to start the fourth game. They called a timeout and closed to 8-6 behind two Knox kills, one apiece from Downs and Rogers and two Husky errors. But as the Rams drew near, the Huskies again turned towards Benjamin and Tomasevic.
Two service aces by Downs closed the Washington lead to 18-17. That was the closest CSU would get as the Huskies extended their lead out to six. Katie Jo Shirley put down a kill to close the lead to 29-27. On the next play, Downs served the ball into the net and as the Washington bench ran onto the floor, she pounded the ball onto the court with her fist. Knox is the team’s lone senior.
“It’s been memorable,” said a teary-eyed Knox after the match.
The Rams finish the season 22-10.