Sep 052005
Authors: Paul Baker

The No. 22 nationally ranked Rams volleyball team had high expectations for their season opening tournament, the Pepperdine Classic in Malibu, Calif. They returned to Fort Collins with a bitter taste in their mouths.

CSU posted a record of 1-2 on the weekend, defeating the Matadors of Cal State Northridge and losing to Northern Iowa and No. 25 ranked Pepperdine.

The Rams were impressive in their first game, trampling the Matadors in three straight games.

Senior outside hitter Tess Rogers led the Rams, recording 15 kills, and hitting .379. The other two seniors on the team, Casey Bauer and Dre Downs, chipped in with 10 kills each. Downs also added a game-high six blocks. A few Rams made the first starts of their careers this weekend, including Mekana Barnes, Tonya Mokelki and Kelsey Hoff.

"This was a good first match for us," Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. "It was  good to play Northridge first. We were able to work through some jitters, and  we got better each game. I'm really pleased with all three seniors."

CSU's next game was a tough five set loss to the University of Northern Iowa. Downs recorded a career-high 23 kills and hit a match-high .571, the fifth highest total in school history. Outside hitter Casey Bauer also recorded a career high in kills and digs with 20 and 15, respectively. Freshman Kelsey Hoff had a career day as well, notching 22 digs. But it wasn't enough as the Panthers out-blocked the Rams, leading to the win.

"We played really well against UNI, and I don't feel bad about losing to  them," Bauer said.

The Rams were inconsistent playing very well at times while faltering at others.

"I think it's just a matter of getting comfortable with the people that you are playing with on the court," Bauer said. "And were getting there."

After the tough loss, the Rams took on Pepperdine in the nightcap. In this game, the Rams could never find their groove, which led to the three game sweep by the Waves.

The loss dropped the Rams to 1-2 on the season while Pepperdine improved to  2-1.

"Our ball control and serve receivers were our biggest things that we struggled with," junior setter Katherine Whitney said.

Pepperdine was led by freshman Julie Rubenstein who had 13 kills in the game, while middle blockers Lecca Roberts and Sophia Milo each notched 10 kills.

Rubenstein also led the match with five blocks.

The Rams' next match finds them in Denver today, competing against the University of Denver Pioneers. The game is set for 7 p.m. at Magness Arena. The

Poineers are 1-3 this season after competing in the UIC Invitational this past weekend. The Poineers were picked to finish first in the West Division of the Sun Belt Conference. Denver returns 10 of 13 players from last years 13-15 squad. Head Coach Beth

Kuwata leads one of the most experienced teams in the conference this year.

"It is important for us to come out and use what we have learned over the weekend in this next game," Bauer said.

After their disappointment in the Pepperdine Classic, CSU is looking forward to moving on and forgetting their early play.

"We really want to win (Tuesday), especially coming off a loss," Whitney said.

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