After eight hard fought matches, upsets, disappointments and a lot of growth, the CSU volleyball team (5-3) is finally ready to enter conference play.
Coach Tom Hilbert explained that the team is ready for the tough road of conference opponents ahead of them, with the first match 7 p.m. tonight at Moby Arena against TCU.
“I think we are excited for it,” he said. “Our team now has some familiarity with the teams we are playing, and that makes it fun to prepare.”
Setter Ashley Fornstrom said that the Rams pre-conference schedule has really prepared the team.
“We played a lot of different matches, long and short ones, easy and hard ones and matches we should have played well but didn’t,” the junior said. “That is the diversity we need before we begin conference. Playing teams like Hawaii and Ohio State can only benefit us.”
“There is no doubt that we played good teams and enough quality opponents to get us ready,” he said. “Now we need to take care of business. We can’t take a single night off.”
Entering the season, the Rams were predicted to finish second in the MWC preseason polls, trailing only Brigham Young, but a slow start has them currently in sixth.
The women are expecting their toughest competition to come from the state directly west.
“Every year it is the same, BYU and Utah are at the top,” Fornstrom said. “Obviously it is something we want to change. We came into the preseason ranked second and we want to prove people wrong and come out ranked first.”
CSU begins conference play tonight taking on Texas Christian University (10-1), a team who is currently atop the conference.
Sophomore Tessa Nelson is expecting a fight from the Horned Frogs.
“Last season they played right with us and we had tough game against them,” the middle blocker said. “I know it will be tough again this season.”
Hilbert said that it is TCU’s experience that has helped them get off to a good start.
“They are returning a lot of players from last year,” he said. “They are a pretty good team and have a couple of really nice athletes.”
TCU returns four starters including senior middle blocker LeMiita Smith who racked up 348 kills last season.
Hilbert sees his team as being a target for everyone in the conference.
“Every team that plays us has respect for us, it is not just because of last year.”
The Rams ended conference play last season by winning the MWC tournament, defeating top seeded Utah in the championship game.
“Our tradition goes back many years. Even though we didn’t win the regular season title the last two years, we did the five before that,” Hilbert said. “People view us as a good team and everybody gets fired up to play us.”
Volleyball beat reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at email@example.com
2007 MWC preseason poll
Rk. 1st place votes Points
1. BYU(8) 119
2. CSU(5) 113
3. Utah 108
4. UNLV(1) 88
5. New Mexico 54
6. SDSU 51
7. Wyoming 50
8. TCU 43
9. Air Force 14
2007 MWC preseason All-Conference Team
Name Cl. Pos. School
Chelsea Goodman Sr. OH BYU
Erica Lott Sr. OH BYU
Mekana Barnes Jr. MB CSU
Maria Aladjova Sr. OH UNLV
Whitney Webb Sr. OH/MB Utah
Ashley Fornstrom Jr. Setter CSU
Aime Corderio Sr. Lebiro SDSU