When a team has to overcome adversity at the beginning of the season, it can sometimes be the best thing for that team’s success.
This may very well be the case for the CSU volleyball team.
It was a weekend of redemption for the Rams volleyball team (2-3) in the Coors Classic. After beating Ohio State in three games on Thursday, they continued their undefeated play at Moby this season beating the Pacific Tigers on Saturday night 30-26, 30-23, and 30-27.
Junior middle blocker Mekana Barnes dominated the Tigers with 16 kills and a career-best .609 hitting percentage. Head Coach Tom Hilbert was ecstatic about Barnes’ performance.
“I thought she was incredible,” Hilbert said. “When there is a player on your team who is literally unstoppable, you can leverage that like crazy.”
Barnes attributed the team’s improved play to last weekend’s tournament in Hawaii where the Rams dropped all three matches, two of which they held a lead in.
“That first trip to Hawaii was a really good trip for us,” Barnes said. “We learned exactly what not to do and what we needed to improve upon. I feel pretty confident that if we keep progressing in this way, then we have a good chance to win.”
The Rams shut down the Tigers “go-to” outside hitter Alexa Anderson by holding her to a .056 hitting percentage. Setter Ashley Fornstrom credited the team’s defense.
“I think our blocking really helped take her line shot away, and the only other shot she had was her cut and Battie (libero Katelin Batten) took that away,” Fornstrom said. “I’m not a hitter, but I used to be, and it’s frustrating when a team takes all your shots away.”
Game three went back and fourth as CSU and Pacific traded leads throughout the game. However, the Rams were able to close the Tigers out with a pair of kills by Barnes and right side hitter Tonya Mokelki. Fornstrom also attributed the clutch play to the learning experiences in Hawaii.
“In the Hawaii matches, we really learned how to compete in tight situations,” Fornstrom said. “That third game shows that we learned. Also, our passing and serving were 100 times better.”
Hilbert was happy with the team’s performance, but was mindful of necessary areas of improvement.
“I’m pleased with where we are right now,” he said. “I still think we need to be a better blocking team than we are. Our blocking and defense has to get a little better and we’re going to keep focusing on that.”
The Rams return to the court to host the Hilton Classic this week starting Thursday with a match against CU-Boulder at 7:30 p.m.
Volleyball beat reporter Brandon Owens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.