Focus and conditioning will be tested this weekend as the Rams embark on their longest and toughest road trip of the season.
CSU will take on the Air Force Academy, followed by New Mexico and TCU before coming back for the second installment of the Border War in Laramie next weekend.
Tonight the Rams are in Colorado Springs to face off against the cadets. Air Force is 4-18 on the season and has yet to win a Mountain West Conference game, losing all of their eight matches to this point. The Rams are 22-1 all-time against the cadets and are currently on a 22-match winning streak against them.
Air Force is led by senior middle blocker Kristin Hamlett, who this year is averaging 3.22 kills and 0.88 blocks per game. The Cadets other middle blocker, Brooke Akers, is hitting a team best .240. In conference matches, Akers is leading the team in kills per game with 3.52.
"Our older players know how to play in these buildings," head coach Tom Hilbert said about the possibility of his team having a let down this weekend. "They are the ones who will need to lead us."
After tonight's game, CSU will pack up and travel to Albuquerque to play New Mexico on Saturday night. The Lobos are currently sixth place in the MWC with an 11-7 record, 3-5 in league play.
"New Mexico will be a tough place to play," Hilbert said. "They lost two five set matches, so they could be in third place. It will be a battle."
Senior outside hitter Nicole Ryan leads the Lobos. She is averaging a team best 3.46 kills per game, while senior middle blocker Chelsea Sondrup leads the squad with 1.30 blocks per game.
Head coach Kelley McKee has a record of 34-70 and is in her fourth year as coach of the Lobos, she hasn't been able to make it in the win column against CSU, as she is 0-9 in her career.
"New Mexico is definitely the team that we will have to watch out for on this trip," Hilbert said.
The Ram's final stop before coming home for a few days is Texas, to take on TCU. The Horned Frogs are in their first season of Mountain West play and are 2-4 in conference so far, with a 12-8 overall record. They are 2-1 at home, but 0-3 on the road. TCU is led by their junior middle blocker Anna Vaughn, she has tailed 3.96 kills per game and a .313 hitting percentage.
The Rams have won four meetings against the Horned Frogs, with two in Fort Collins and two in Fort Worth. The two teams haven't met since 1998 when CSU was in the Western Athletic Conference.
"Hopefully the excitement of playing in a new place will help our team keep their focus," Hilbert said of playing in Fort Worth.
The Rams are currently in third place in the MWC at 4-1, 11-4 overall. CSU hopes to climb back above UNLV. The Rams received some votes in this week's USA Today/CSTV Coaches Poll. CSU returns home Wednesday for a couple of days before heading back on the road to face off against Wyoming.