With history on their side, the Rams (16-7 overall, 9-4 in the Mountain West Conference) traveled to Utah over the weekend to take on conference leaders BYU and Utah. It was the fourth time in as many years that the Rams have gone on the road and swept the teams on their home court.
CSU started the weekend in Provo Friday night, and defeated the No. 16 Cougars in five games 30-28, 30-23, 27-30, 28-30, 17-15.
"It feels amazing to come out and beat them in their own house," sophomore right side hitter Tonya Mokelki said in an interview on KCSU radio after the game.
The match appeared to be similar to the one played in Moby Arena a month ago, but this time the Rams were able to pull out a close victory.
Game 1 was close the whole way as there were 12 ties and five lead changes, but Downs had six kills as the Rams finished off the Cougars.
Game 2 was a game of runs. The Rams jumped out to an early 17-9 lead, with their longest point run of the season. But BYU used its strengths and behind outside hitter Chelsea Goodman got back into the game. The Cougars came within one point 21-20, but that was as close as the Rams would let them come.
The third game could have gone to either team, but CSU committed too many errors, which allowed BYU to build a lead. A Ram attacking error gave the Cougars the game to make it 2-1.
With nine lead changes in game 4, the last coming at 25-25, the Rams couldn't pull it out. But CSU senior Tess Rogers exploded for eight kills in the game while Dre Downs added five.
With the score tied two games apiece, there seemed to be a sense of urgency. Just two weeks ago the Rams gave up a two game lead to TCU and ended up losing in five games. But the Rams wouldn't let that happen again.
In game 5, the Rams came out and used great blocking to win 17-15 in the final frame. Downs combined with freshman setter Ashley Fornstrom, while Barnes combined with Mokelki to shut down the Cougar offense. A Mokelki kill ended the game.
"This match was full of competitive moments and big plays at the end," head coach Tom Hilbert said in a CSU athletic media release.
The Cougars are now 21-2 overall and 12-2 in the MWC.
"We're improving in every aspect of the game," Rogers said on KCSU. "Each practice we are working hard and we're peaking at the right time of the year."
Rogers finished the match with a career-high 24 kills, while Downs chipped in with 17. Junior libero Katherine Whitney had 20 digs to lead the match and also had a career high six service aces.
The Rams couldn't savor their victory too long as the Utes were on the horizon.
"If we have a tough match on Friday, as a program CSU always plays better the next day," Rogers said of the upcoming game.
And that is what happened. The Rams came out and dominated the Utes (18-7, 10-4 in conference) as they won in four games 30-24, 30-28, 32-34, 30-21.
Seniors Casey Bauer and Downs had a big night. Bauer contributed 21 kills while Downs composed 9 blocks.
The Rams started the match strong winning games one and two.
"I told my team in the huddle, this is who we are," Hilbert said in the release.
The Rams lost game 3 but bounced back to close with a dominant fourth game win.
With the two victories, the Rams move a step closer to a birth in the NCAA tournament.
The Rams currently sit in fourth place in the conference standings behind Utah, BYU and UNLV, respectively.
CSU will host three conference games this week starting with TCU Tuesday night at 7 p.m. Friday night the Rams will host the New Mexico Lobos followed with Air Force Saturday.