Volleyball head coach Tom Hilbert said it is always good for his team to be tested. His team ran into an unexpected test Friday night from a 2-9 Wyoming Cowgirls squad.
The Rams (11-1, 3-0) defeated the Cowgirls (2-10, 1-2) 3-2, many times during the match looking like the dominant team that has defeated Florida and BYU. Other times though, particularly the first set, the team looked out of sync and overmatched.
“We were playing as if we didn’t know what they were doing when I thought we were prepared for what they were doing,” said Hilbert. “It was an interesting match. I don’t think our focus and concentration was there, but to Wyoming’s credit, they compete. They disrupted us and came out and competed and played better than we expected them to play.”
Wyoming used a variety of serves including a lefty jump-server and several jump-float servers to disrupt the Ram’s attack.
“We knew what they were going to do and have been practicing it, but we didn’t react as well as we should have,” said senior outside-hitter Jaime Strauss.
Strauss led the Rams with 19 kills, while sophomore outside-hitter Jacque Davisson finished second with 12. Coach Hilbert said it was senior middle blocker Tessa Nelson, though, who won the match for the team. Nelson tallied a season-high 11 kills and also tied a career-high by notching nine blocks.
“Who I think really won this match for us was Tessa Nelson,” said Hilbert. “She was consistent every time she took a swing and she blocked well. We were a little disrupted and Tessa stepped up and played with a great deal of maturity.”
Playing with maturity and a higher level of mental preparedness is what Hilbert said the team needs to improve in throughout the season, especially once the team hits the road.
“Our team needs to be more mentally prepared when they go into every match regardless of who we’re playing,” said Hilbert. “This (win over Wyoming) shows you that we can be really good and we can be very average. When we go on the road in some of the hostile environments we’re going to have to be very good to get a win.”
The team has now played three conference matches, going undefeated, but needed five sets against Wyoming and Utah. They defeated BYU in three sets. Going on the road to face these teams will be a little tougher, Hilbert said.
“Everybody’s good in their gyms,” said Hilbert. “I’d like to go through this conference unscathed, but I have a feeling some of these road matches are going to be pretty hard.”
Senior middle-blocker Mekana Barnes, who notched 10 kills against Wyoming, agrees.
“We’re going to have to learn from this match,” Barnes said. “We’re going to have to be able to compose ourselves on the road and be able to play in their environment.”
The Rams hit the road this week down in Colorado Springs to take on conference foe Air Force (4-11, 0-4) on Thursday night.
Volleyball beat writer Stephen Meyers can be reached at email@example.com.