Salt Lake City – On paper the CSU volleyball team should have come away with a 1-1 record over the weekend, on the court everything went to plan, except someone forgot to tell the Rams which opponent was 2-7 and which was No. 17 in the country.
The Rams traveled to The Beehive State and fell to the University of Utah in four games but rebounded in a big way to beat nationally-ranked BYU in five. The exciting pair of matches saw records and spirits broken nightly.
On Saturday night, the Rams, who stayed in Salt Lake City, made the hour-long trip to Provo, Utah, to face the BYU Cougars on their home floor on homecoming weekend. Paying no heed to the 8-23 record the Rams hold in Provo, the Rams, led by a career-high 30 kills from Jaime Strauss, went into Smith Fieldhouse and took the five-game thriller.
“Jaime Strauss was the difference tonight” coach Tom Hilbert said. Strauss finished the night with a .419 hitting percentage and a season-high 21 digs in addition to her 30 kills.
“We all had to step up in some way to try and come back from (Friday) night,” Strauss said. “And that was my way of giving.”
The match had 37 ties and 16 lead changes, but none of either in the game 5, where the Rams led wire-to-wire. The other four games, on the other hand, were anything but easy for the Rams.
In the fourth game, CSU stumbled early as BYU pulled out to a 20-9 lead, and the Rams were forced to change their strategy.
“I knew game four was over halfway in,” Hilbert said. “I started resting people so we could be prepared for game five. We wanted to put ourselves in position to know what to do.”
In game 3, BYU was propelled to a win by an emotional ceremony at intermission honoring the program’s 1,000th win. The Rams dropped the third game to the home team 31-29, but despite the words of retired coach Elaine Michaelis, there was no 1,001st match victory for the Cougars that night.
The Rams came out of the gates fast, taking the first two games from the Cougars and shocking a crowd of more than 1,700 that had gathered at Smith Fieldhouse on homecoming night.
The first two games were no cake walk for the visiting Rams. The Cougars competed admirably, forcing CSU into extra points in the opening and second games. The Rams were forced to recover from Cougars’ game point five times and lost their own game point three times.
“This is a wide open conference,” Hilbert said. “Every road win is big, that’s why this win is so big, and we have to be good this weekend at home.”
Setter Ashley Fornstrom also set a career high in the match. She recorded 80 assists; good for the fourth best performance in a five game match in CSU history. Libero Katelin Batten also contributed a team-high 27 digs, and freshman outside hitter Danielle Minch had a career-high with 15 kills.
The match against the Utah Utes did not end as well for the Rams. Though the Rams led in all four games, they weren’t able to pull out the win.
The fourth and final game electrified Crimson Court, going to extra points, with the Rams finally falling 35-33.
The match saw a terrific performance from junior middle blocker Mekana Barnes. Barnes had 19 total blocks, a career high and school record, to go along with a season-high 23 kills. Barnes also surpassed 300 career blocks in the match. As a team, the Rams out-blocked the Utes 28 to 19.
The Utes won with a balanced attack. Lori Baird, Kathryn Haynie, Kate Robison and all-American Whitney Webb hit double-digits in kills for Utah.