Nov 042004
 
Authors: Stephanie Lindberg

Sunday may be a day of rest for some, but not for the No. 9 CSU

volleyball team.

The Rams will take on No. 3 Nebraska at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon

in Lincoln in the second game of a traveling weekend.

The team’s road trip begins tonight in Laramie, Wyo., as the

Rams (19-2, 10-1 Mountain West Conference) will look to buck the

Wyoming Cowgirls (13-10, 6-5).

The CSU/Nebraska matchup, billed as the Game of the Week by the

American Volleyball Coaches Association, features two top-10 teams

that figure to reach postseason play, part of the reason CSU head

coach Tom Hilbert set it up.

“I hope to get the team to understand what it’s like to play one

of the best teams in the country in the end of the season,” Hilbert

said.

The Huskers (19-1) have not lost a game since Sept. 10, when

they lost 1-3 to No. 24 Florida A&M. They made quick work of

Texas Tech Wednesday night, holding the Red Raiders to a negative

hitting percentage before a sold-out crowd of 4,110. Tech became

the sixth team to hit negative numbers against Nebraska this

season.

“They’re a great team. They’re very athletic,” Hilbert said.

“They’re much taller in every position.”

Junior middle blocker Melissa Elmer and freshman right-side

hitter Sarah Pavan combined for 27 kills in the victory. Elmer

leads the team with a .340 hitting percentage and 1.81 blocks per

game while Pavan has a team best 4.48 kills per game. Hilbert

called Pavan “the best right-side hitter in the United States.”

Sophomore libero Amanda McCormick is digging up 4.51 balls per

game. As a team, the Huskers are hitting .285 with 17.1 kills and

3.8 blocks per game.

Most likely the Huskers fans will be out in full force, having

sold out their last 50 home games.

“That’ll be something different for us to play with,” said CSU

junior outside hitter Casey Bauer, who has faced Nebraska twice in

spring scrimmages.

On the other side of the net, the Rams have hit .299 with 17.4

kills and 3.1 blocks per game. Junior outside hitter Tess Rogers is

hitting 3.85 kills per game to lead the Rams, while senior middle

blocker Katie Jo Shirley-Cahoon leads the team in attack percentage

with .406. Senior middle blocker Bri Frech is the team block leader

with 1.42 per game.

The Huskers and Rams have squared off six times, with Nebraska

taking a 5-1 lead after a 2001 win at Nebraska. The Rams have never

won in Lincoln and last beat the Huskers in 1987 in Fort

Collins.

But before the Rams reach Nebraska, Wyoming is on the table for

a rematch of the Border War.

“We’re preparing for Wyoming first,” Hilbert said. “They’ve

changed one of their outside hitters – it’s now Andrea Tuck. She’s

doing really well. They moved Sarah Maytorena to the right side.

It’s kind of like playing a different team.”

Under first-year head coach Pat Stangle, the Cowgirls are having

one of the best years in recent memory, especially at home where

they are 8-3.

Setter Amy Doman, middle blocker Jill Roslund, outside hitter

Maytorena and libero Vanessa Latimer, all seniors, will play their

final home game.

“Any time your seniors are finishing up at home it’s an

emotional time,” Stangle said. “(This year is) their best result so

far.”

The freshman stepped up for Wyoming with middle blocker Shelby

Heggie leading the hitters with a .335 hitting percentage. Outside

hitter Rachel Smith and Heggie are both hitting 2.33 kills per

game, second to Maytorena, who averages 3.52.

“You’re never sure what the freshmen are thinking or knowing, so

we’ve just asked them to go out and play,” Stangle said. “They’ve

done a nice job doing that. I think we’ve gotten better.”

The Rams have won the last 13 matches against Wyoming, including

the Oct. 8 game in Fort Collins, but they will expect a lot of

noise from the Wyoming fans.

“I consider it a pretty hostile environment,” Hilbert said.

“They have the fans right behind you.”

It’s no mystery that being at home behind the support of rowdy

fans has helped the Cowgirls.

“We’re more comfortable at home. It’s a very intimate

environment,” Stangle said. “I just think it’s a great home

court.”

The Rams will look to feed off the negative energy.

“It’s a border war,” Bauer said. “Their crowd can be pretty

rowdy. CSU fans don’t really go up there. We want to play better

when we have people cheering against us. We use it to get fired

up.”

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