It is called the Sweet 16 for a reason. It is a reward for a
good season and hard work, which the Rams volleyball team (30-4)
has accomplished this year.
“It’s all I can think about, I couldn’t sleep,” said right-side
hitter Dre Downs. “It’s a really good time to be a part of CSU
The No. 12 Rams will play the No. 3 University of Florida Gators
(33-1) tonight at 5:30 p.m. in Gainesville, Fla. A win means CSU
would play on ESPN Saturday at 5 p.m. in the Elite 8 of the NCAA
Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship Tournament versus the
winner of a Kansas State and Penn State game.
The Gators’ only loss came against No. 1 USC in the first match
of the season. Florida has faced some of the same opponents as the
Rams, going 5-0 against No. 6 Kansas State, BYU, No. 5 Stanford,
Florida A&M and No. 14 Minnesota. The Rams went 3-3 against
those same teams, losing to Kansas State, Stanford and
The Gators have swept every match since Aug. 23, when they lost
one game to Kansas State.
CSU looks to change that by playing good defense.
“We’ve got to play defense, a lot of our games we’ve won by
playing defense,” Downs said.
Easy points can be made by keeping serving and passing errors to
“Serving and passing is always important, especially going into
an away game,” said libero Lindsey Kerr, who looks to return to the
lineup after missing the last 10 matches due to surgery.
Because Florida is a low-error team, CSU coach Tom Hilbert is
hoping having Kerr back will minimize CSU’s errors.
“She’s a little rusty,” Hilbert said of Kerr. “But having
Lindsey rusty is better than having two players.”
The Rams are 1-1 against the Gators lifetime, defeating the
Gators in four games at Florida to start the 2000 season. Three
Florida seniors remain from the 2000 season while the CSU lineup
has changed completely.
“They are essentially better (than in 2000),” Hilbert said.
“They are all seniors. There’s no lack of talent on that team.
There’s a million people on that team that can hurt you.”
Florida is led by senior outside hitter Aury Cruz, junior setter
Lauren Moscovic and junior middle blocker Sherri Williams. Cruz is
arguably the most dangerous person on the team, hitting .319 with
4.43 kills per game and 3.30 digs per game. Moscovic is averaging
13.12 assists per game and Williams has a team-best .473 hitting
percentage. Sophomore Jane Collymore, a former star at Kent Denver
High School, is hitting .298 in 100 games this season for the
Gators with 3.59 kills per game.
“We have to play well and score some points when Cruz is in the
back row,” Hilbert said. “She’s going to get kills in the front
As a team, the Gators are hitting .348 with 16.59 kills, 2.10
service aces, 14.62 digs and 3.18 blocks per game. They have a
perfect record at home in Gainesville.
The American Volleyball Coaches Association named juniors
Melissa Courtney and Katie Jo Shirley to the All-Region West Team
on Dec. 10.
Shirley, after missing the first round of the NCAA Tournament
due to a shoulder injury, played against Maryland on Saturday and
is expected to play today. Shirley is hitting .417 on the season
and last week against Maryland had eight kills and only one
Courtney had 47 assists for the Rams against Maryland. With 83
more assists, she will be fourth on the CSU career list with 3,210.
She also has 53 service aces on the year and junior Bri Frech has
CSU is doing better in tournament play than it averaged during
the season. The Rams were hitting .271 with 16.62 kills per game,
12.57 digs and 1.92 aces. In first round play, the team hit .364
with 18.67 kills, 13.5 digs and 2.67 aces. When hitting over .300
in a game, the Rams are 12-0 on the year.
Compared to the other three teams playing in Florida, CSU only
leads in the kills category. Florida leads in hitting percentage,
lowest opponent hitting percentage and aces per game. Penn State
has better averages in digs and blocks.
Penn State (30-4) and Kansas State (30-4) will face each other
Friday afternoon. Penn State has played Colorado, BYU and
Minnesota, going 2-2. CSU is 3-1 against those teams. Kansas State
defeated CSU earlier this year in Kansas. CSU is 0-3 lifetime
against Penn State and 5-3 versus Kansas State.
But in order to play either Penn State or Kansas State, the Rams
must win against the host.
“We’ve got to beat Florida,” Hilbert said. “That will help our
confidence. They think they’re here because they work hard. They
always feel like they have something to prove.”