The CSU women’s volleyball team finished with a 1-1 record after two matches against top-ranked teams this weekend in the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators tournament.
In game one on Friday night, CSU won the first match 30-23, but ended up losing to No. 5 Minnesota in four games by scores of 30-24, 30-22 and 30-27.
The Rams started out with a three-point lead in the second game. The match was close with the Rams up 22-17 when Golden Gopher libero Paula Gentil came up to serve. Gentil served up three service aces and the Minnesota rattled off 10 unanswered points.
“I think Paula’s serving pulled us out in that game,” said Minnesota’s senior outside hitter Erin Martin. “At any point that can happen in a game.”
After losing the first game, Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert looked to change things up.
“Our serving strategy changed it,” Hebert said. “You’ve got to be playing at the end to win it.”
Despite the Gopher’s serving strategy, four Rams hit double figures in kills and hit .258 as a team. Minnesota hit .276 with three players in double-digit kills. CSU head coach Tom Hilbert acknowledged both Martin and fellow senior outside hitter Bratford as strong hitters, and they showed their prowess by recording 24 and 19 kills, respectively.
After the domination in game one, CSU junior right side hitter Dre Downs said there was really one explanation for the match’s outcome.
“What I think happened was we lost our focus and we never really got it back,” Downs said.
Hilbert also looked at game two as a turning point in the match.
“We came out in game two and we couldn’t put the ball away,” Hilbert said. “We didn’t have the type of middle game that we needed to have. The tempo we were playing at slowed down.”
Senior outside hitter Becky Sarauer was disappointed in the outcome.
“I’m disappointed,” Sarauer said. “We wanted to be in the final.”
Saturday’s battle for third
Emotions were high on Saturday night as everyone in Moby Arena acknowledged the presence of CSU assistant coach Andy Klussman with a standing ovation prior to the CSU-Georgia Tech game. Klussman was seriously injured in a car accident in June and is currently undergoing rehab at Craig Hospital in Englewood.
“It was very emotional,” said senior setter Melissa Courtney. “But it was a good emotion.”
The Rams pulled out a victory in four games by scores of 30-26, 28-30, 30-26, 30-28 in what was a very close match. The teams spent much of the time trading points back and forth.
To win the match in the fourth game after a late surge by Georgia Tech, the Rams had to refocus. The Yellow Jackets tied the game at 27 and 28 before sophomore libero Kristen Karlick finished it, serving and forcing an attack error by senior outside hitter Lauren Sauer.
“Of course we thought the same thing was going to happen (as the night before),” said Downs, who was named to the All-Tournament team. “But I didn’t condition myself all summer to lose.”
Once again the hitters stepped up for CSU, with four players in double-digit kills as the team hit .266. Senior middle blocker Katie Jo Shirley-Cahoon led the team with 17 kills. The Yellow Jackets defense was superb, with three players in double-digit digs and 14 team blocks, though the Jackets committed 16 service errors.
“They really do have some great hitting,” said Georgia Tech head coach Bond Shymansky of CSU’s team. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that we need to make our serves. It was frustrating for us. Some people might write it off to altitude, but I would write it off to poise, confidence and skill. We need to be better at that.”
The Yellow Jackets also showed off some hitting power. Senior middle blocker Jayme Gergen had a career night in kills (20) and blocks (10 assists).
“I had a lot of fun,” said Gergen, despite the two losses in the tournament.
“Man, it was a good thing we won that game when we did,” Hilbert said. “Georgia Tech is a frustrating team to play. I’m really pleased to have this win.”
The Rams return to Moby Arena on Wednesday to face Idaho State at 7 p.m.