Usually in the buildup to any CSU-CU game, it’s the coaches who have to remind the players that it’s only one game, while it’s the players who spout off about the magnitude of the game.
For the CSU volleyball team, that trend is reversed.
The Rams players tended to downplay the contest when talking about tonight’s battle against the Buffs (6:30, Coors Events Center in Boulder), while coach Tom Hilbert was quick to point out how important the game was in his eyes.
“I think it is a big, huge rivalry. It is a pride thing, and those games tend to be more meaningful than almost any that you play. Both these teams have a lot of Colorado kids on their teams and most of the kids have played against each other before they came to college. Our players probably say that BYU and Utah are bigger, but CU is pretty big,” said Hilbert, who is 10-2 against the Colorado in his career at CSU.
Rams senior outside hitter Jamie Strauss pointed that the Rams have been focusing this season on the need to take it one game at a time, and that is the reason she isn’t overemphasizing this match.
“I don’t like to use the word rivalry because I feel that you have to play every game the same to win. We still need to compete and play well against different opponents, especially on the road, so a win over (CU) on the road would be good for us,” Strauss said.
Setter Ashley Fornstrom agreed with Strauss’ sentiment, but she was quick to point out that this game does receive extra hype from the fans of both teams, especially because of how intense the rivalry gets for other sports.
Fornstrom said the volleyball team tries to keep their emotions separated from other CSU-CU results, but that getting some matter of revenge for the CSU football loss in the Rocky Mountain Showdown might “be in the back of the mind” the team.
The Rams come into the game as the No. 21 team in the nation, while the Buffs are off to their best start in history at 6-0, having won both of their tournaments this season, setting up what should be an entertaining match between Colorado’s two biggest volleyball schools.
“I like matches like this because they aren’t conference games. Basically they let us know where we are at, at this point of time, compared to the other big dog in the state,” Hilbert said.
The Buffaloes will be a tough opponent on the court, but the Rams also expect to compete against a hostile crowd as well, and they know how they react to the crowd will be crucial.
“Especially when there is rivalry game, it is going to be loud. We know they (the CU crowd) are going to be rowdy and trying to mess with our heads. That’s what they did to us the last time we were there, so we are expecting it.
“We just need to make sure to stay composed and we will be fine,” Fornstrom said.
Sports writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.