Sep 172008
 
Authors: Matthew Pucak

The CSU volleyball team doesn’t like to think too much about keeping their unbeaten streak at Moby Arena alive, preferring to focus on playing well in every game no matter the gym or the opponent.

But you can be assured anyone visiting CSU will take notice, especially after the Rams (8-1) ran their streak to 19 straight wins with dominating performances against No. 8 Florida and North Carolina last weekend.

After last week’s sweep, this week the No. 15 Rams host two conference rivals, with the Utah Utes (7-2), visiting tonight at 7 p.m., and then the No. 24 Brigham Young Cougars (7-2) calling Saturday at 7 p.m.

“Every conference game counts the same, but Utah and BYU are two of the better teams in the top half of the league,” said Tom Hilbert, the Rams head coach. “Wins over them are important and will make a really strong statement for the conference race. It’s important for us to maintain our momentum and get a good jump on the conference.”

Opening against two top teams should be a challenge, but the Rams feel having home court and several tough out of conference games will have them prepared.

“It’s really important (to play well), especially since this is such a big weekend,” said Jamie Strauss, the Rams’ senior outside hitter. “Having BYU and Utah the first week of conference is always tough, but I think that playing here is going to be an advantage for us. I think that we are starting to get comfortable in our rotations, and I think that will benefit us.”

Hilbert, in his 12th season at CSU, said he has seen bigger crowds at Moby than the Florida crowd last Saturday, but that he hasn’t seen a crowd with as much involvement in the game. His players, however, had never experienced such a large crowd, and they loved it.

“I know our team was feeding off the energy that all of our fans were bringing. I guess I am glad we won with all those people, so they keep coming back,” Strauss said.

Katelyn Steffan played exceptionally in all three Rams matches last week, and the 6-foot-4 opposite hitter was named the Mountain West Player of the Week, making her the fourth current Ram to receive that honor.

“It feels really good; I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said Steffan, an opposite hitter. “It is going to be exciting, and I want to try to carry it on.”

Steffan, who redshirted last season, credited the wild crowd with boosting the Rams’ performance.

“It was ridiculous. It was so exciting and the crowd was unbelievable. It really helped us a lot,” she said.

Tonight’s match is set for 7 p.m. in Moby Arena.

Volleyball beat writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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