CSU to take on UNM, TCU

Sep 212006
Authors: JEFF DILLON The Rocky Mountain Collegian

After opening play in the Mountain West Conference with two losses, the CSU volleyball team finds itself at the bottom of the conference standings. It’s a spot they are not used to being in.

But don’t expect the Rams to stay there for long. This weekend gives the team its first opportunity to move toward the top of the standings, a spot it is much more comfortable with.

CSU (5-6, 0-2) will face the New Mexico Lobos (4-8, 0-1) at 7 p.m. today and the Texas Christian Horned Frogs (12-2, 1-0) at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

The Rams are currently tied for last place in the conference standings with Air Force, but its losses came against the two teams tied for first place, Brigham Young and Utah.

TCU is currently in third place, while New Mexico is in sixth, though they’ve each only played one conference match so far.

Despite the 0-2 road trip last weekend, the Rams’ spirits are still high heading into these matches.

“We’re using the confidence from this past weekend and building off of it,” said senior outside hitter Katherine Whitney. “We have to keep the level of play high.”

Head Coach Tom Hilbert said the team is growing and is ready to prove itself better this weekend. Practices this week have been shaped around improving on where the team left off in Utah.

“We’ve broken down some things we haven’t done well,” he said. “Our transition game is still a focus. We’ve got to get better at blocking their hitters so we’re not giving up point runs.”

CSU was caught giving up some deadly runs in its past two matches. Against Utah, the Rams dropped six straight points in the decisive third game. The following night, the Rams kept the final game extremely close but then let the Cougars grab the momentum late and pull off a 15-11 victory.

The Rams also need to work on cutting down errors. The team ranks near the bottom of the conference in hitting percentage and in opponent hitting percentage. But, as Hilbert pointed out, it’s not like the Rams have been beaten by a bad team.

“You have to recognize the right behaviors and the right things you are doing,” he said. “You look at matches like Pepperdine and BYU and, even though we lost, we did a lot of things well.”

Playing four ranked teams in the past five matches has been a tough road for the Rams, but it will also provide the team with a high bar of comparison. CSU only has two more ranked teams left on the schedule, Utah and BYU, both of which the Rams will face at home in November.

To make sure those matches will mean something when they come, the Rams have to do well in the matches that Hilbert says are “should-wins.”

The players understand the significance of this weekend as well. Senior Katherine Whitney reiterated her coaches’ comments.

“I think every match the rest of the season is a must-win for us,” she said.

Staff writer Jeff Dillon can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

What to watch for:

UNM 7 p.m. Friday

– Transition Game: The Lobos are ranked second in the conference in both kills and assists.

– Sarah Kwaisgroch, setter: As a sophomore, she already has 1,496 assists, 10th best in UNM history.

TCU 7 p.m. Saturday

– Serves: The Horned Frogs have 16 aces this season, the most in the conference.

– Emily Allen, right side hitter: The junior leads the conference in hitting percentage at .600.

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