In the NCAA volleyball tournament, like many other sports, every team but one has to lose its last game. The CSU volleyball team won’t be that one team this year.
The Rams were eliminated from the NCAA tournament Saturday night in Ann Arbor Mich., at the hands of the University of Michigan. The Wolverines swept CSU in front of a crowd of mostly blue and maize, 30-24, 30-27 and 30-23.
CSU coach Tom Hilbert could see past the early exit to see that his team put together a quality season.
“It was a good season and it is not difficult to look back at that,” the 18-year head coach said. “It is much more difficult for the players because they are in the moment. This team preformed well and had some good exciting matches.”
Hilbert said that this loss hurt more because he came into the game expecting a win.
Setter Ashley Fornstrom and outside hitter Jamie Strauss took the loss hard but agree it was a good season.
“We had a great year and we can’t focus on one loss,” Fornstrom said with tears in her eyes. “We can’t look back, we need to look forward. But it is tough loss and hard to swallow.”
The loss marks the second time in as many seasons that the Rams have lost in the second round of the tournament. CSU exited last year after losing to the University of Washington.
Michigan’s win marks the first time the Wolverines have ever advanced to the Sweet 16. The Wolverines will move on to play Penn State, the third-ranked team in the country. Michigan failed to beat the Penn State in two previous matches this season.
Although they would prefer to still be in the tournament, the Rams can take solace in the fact that most of their current team is expected to return next season.
Losing only Tonya Mokelki and Amanda Fahnestock to graduation, the Rams will return 11 players to their lineup, including Mountain West Player of the Year Mekana Barnes. Strauss and Fornstrom, who were named to the Mountain West All-Conference, will also return.
Fornstrom said that while the loss hurts now, it can be used as fuel to work hard in the off-season.
“It is definitely a motivator,” she said. “We are going to go into the off season and work hard to make sure this doesn’t happen again next year.”
Volleyball beat reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org