It is early in the season, but a successful trip to Utah could put the CSU woman’s volleyball team in control of the Mountain West Conference.
The Rams head to Utah for back-to-back matches against two of the team’s biggest rivals, Utah and Brigham Young University. CSU has yet to win a match on the road, falling short in their first three attempts this season. Outside hitter Tonya Mokelki expects that to change.
“This weekend will be a challenge,” the senior said. “Not only do we have the pressure of winning on the road, but we have to do it against two top teams. Personally I tend to play a little better in games against them.”
The women will kickoff the road trip 8:30 tonight in Salt Lake City against Utah (2-7 0-2). The Utes have struggled with a tough early schedule, losing three of their first four matches. CSU coach Tom Hilbert said that has given his team something to prove.
“They have lost a lot from last season but they are playing with a chip on their shoulders,” he said. “There is a lot of team chemistry there and aren’t going to be a push over.”
The Rams will then head to Provo, Utah, for a Saturday night match with No. 12 BYU (8-3 1-1). The Cougars have been impressive early thanks in large part to the stellar play of outside hitter Chelsea Goodman.
“She is a fiery player with a lot of heat,” Hilbert said about Goodman. “She is a great addition to the emotional center of that team.”
Goodman, a senior, is currently averaging 4.39 kills per game.
Middle back Mekana Barnes is looking forward to the trip and explained that tough opponents are easier to get excited for.
“It is easier to play against them because we are so fired up,” the junior said. “We don’t have to spend as much time getting mentally prepared to play.”
Coach Tom Hilbert purposely planned this season’s schedule so he could play the two powerhouses on back-to-back nights instead of the regular format of a match on Thursday, a day of rest, travel Friday and then a match on Saturday.
“I don’t think it is a bad thing to play them like this,” he said. “Sometimes when you’re on the road for that extra day bad things happen. At home that extra day can help but on the road it doesn’t.”
The Rams failed to beat Utah or BYU on the road last season, but Barnes feels that if her team can do it this year, good things will happen.
“If we can take care of this it will be good for us,” she said. “Everything else will follow.”
4.39 kills per game
.229 Hitting percentage
3.63 Kills per game
10 Service Aces
.333 Hitting percentage