Sep 012005
 
Authors: Paul Baker

The 22nd ranked CSU Volleyball team looks to shake off the disappointment of last year's abrupt end to the season, when they swing into action this weekend at the Pepperdine Classic in Malibu, Calif.

This will be the first time since the 2000 season that the Rams have started the season on the road. That year the Rams played their first six games on the road, going 5-1 over that span and winning the NACWAA/ State Farm Classic.

This year the Rams play their first four games on the road that will include Cal State Northridge, Northern Iowa and Pepperdine. They have a date with the University of Denver upon their return.

The Rams' first match up against Cal State Northridge is this weekend. The Matadors are 1-2 after last weekend's Fremont Investment & Loan Invitational. The Matadors' losses came against Arizona and 23rd ranked Saint Mary's, with their only win coming against Mountain West Conference foe, UNLV.

"Northridge had a pretty good weekend last week," Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. "They were definitely better than we expected."

The Matadors are a young team this year with only six returning players from last year. Last weekend they were led by freshman Kelley Hanson who averaged 3.29 kills per game and 3.07 digs per game in the tournament, and was one of two Matadors to be named to the all-tournament team. She had an impressive collegiate debut as she knocked down 24 kills to go with 23 digs in a five set loss to Arizona State.

Saturday the Rams will take on Northern Iowa in the first of two matches that day. The Panthers are coming off two wins last weekend over Illinois-Chicago and Northern Illinois. The Panthers were led by sophomore outside hitter Laura Rowen, who averaged 3.57 kills, 4.57 digs and 1.43 blocks per game last weekend. Rowen recorded a career high eight blocks in UNI's 3-0 win over Illinois-Chicago. A core group returns for the Panthers who were picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Rams second game Saturday will pit them against Pepperdine, the 25th ranked team in the country. The Waves have yet to play a match this year, but are co-favorites to win the West Coast Conference title. They return 11 letter winners and five starters from last years 10-15 squad. Last year, outside hitter Katy Daly averaged 4.05 kills and 3.08 digs per game.

"We've just been preparing ourselves for the transition from practicing to playing," freshman Jaime Strauss said about playing this weekend. "For myself, when I go in, I need to do what needs to be done."

The Rams are 27-7-1 all-time in season openers, but have lost the last two – losing to fourth ranked Stanford in three games in 2003 and losing to fifth ranked Minnesota last year in Moby.

"I have a lot of faith in Casey (Bauer) and Tess (Rogers) to help us through this weekend," Hilbert said.

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