Dec 102002
 
Authors: Lee Miller

Another successful season for volleyball

By Lee Miller

Hawaii was beautiful. The beaches were warm and the tournament was intense.

And now the CSU volleyball team can look back on another successful season.

The Rams began the season ranked No. 18 in the nation. There were few expectations, as the Rams welcomed four new starters onto the roster.

The Rams started off well, winning the first tournament of the season on their home court. Freshmen Andreya Downs and Tess Rogers showed early that they would be players to watch in as the season went on.

“The young players on our team stepped up a lot this season,” CSU coach Tom Hilbert said. “Just seeing what these women are capable of doing now gives us a lot to look forward to.”

The Rams lost their annual match against Colorado, but excelled on the road in Arkansas and San Diego, the first major road trips for many of the players.

The Rams returned to Fort Collins and learned how to deal with injuries to their leaders. Melissa Courtney went down after a heart-breaking loss to Nevada. Michelle Knox was hurt the following night against Cincinnati, and the Rams lost three matches at Moby Arena for the first time in years.

On came the conference season, and the Rams showed up to surprise the Mountain West

A five-game thriller over the Aztecs and season sweeps over Air Force, Wyoming, UNLV, Utah and New Mexico left the Rams at 12-2, with their only losses coming to BYU at Moby and at San Diego State.

The loss against BYU was a tough one. The Cougars were the last Mountain West Conference team to beat the Rams in the friendly confines of Moby arena in 2000. And the ghosts of that match would continue to haunt CSU.

The Mountain West Conference Tournament then came to Fort Collins. The Rams had everyone right where they wanted them. A No. 1 seed gave the Rams a match against Air Force in the first round and a chance at avenging the loss to BYU at home, in front of many supportive fans.

Air Force put up a good fight, but the Rams had too many weapons. The Cougars won their first-round match as well, and the stage was set for another showdown.

The Cougars jumped out to a one-game lead, but the Rams took the next two to take the advantage into game four. The Cougars, however, devastated the Rams in game four and closed out the Rams’ season one match short of the MWC Championship.

“We will always remember this loss,” setter Melissa Courtney said after the match. “We’ll keep it in the back of our heads and use it as experience when we need to step up, because we don’t like this feeling.”

The Rams would have to wait an entire week to find out that their regular season accomplishments were enough to get them back to the NCAA Tournament for the eighth straight season. They would go to Hawaii, only to be stopped by the Washington Huskies.

“We’re a young team with a great future ahead of us,” Hilbert said. “We’ve done great things this year.”

The Rams finished the season at 22-10 overall. They lose only one player from the 2002 roster. The remaining members will begin to prepare for next year’s campaign.

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