If a No. 13 national ranking or an eight-game winning streak hasn’t convinced you yet, just a little reminder, the CSU volleyball team is pretty good. What is yet to be shown is if they can achieve greatness.
For the first time in several years, the CSU campus, alumni and other residents of Ram nation are truly excited about a team, as well they should be. Match attendance is up, and anytime a volleyball team can fill stands of Moby arena like the Rams did Friday night against Wyoming, it must be doing something right.
Not only has CSU climbed to the point of grasping a national top 10 ranking, they have done it with ease. Since losing to Pepperdine in the second week of the season, CSU has gone undefeated, winning 24 of 28 sets. That includes sweeps of annual powerhouses Florida and BYU.
With such early success, thoughts of appearances deep in the NCAA tournament and even the final four are popping in the minds of anyone who knows Ram volleyball.
While the team, including head coach Tom Hilbert, claim they are only thinking about the next game on the schedule, they can see in the back of their minds that everything is lining up for the Rams to make a serious run in the NCAA tournament. Early season success has put CSU into the national spotlight, which will help during seeding. Oh, and by the way, the third and fourth rounds of the tournament are scheduled to take place in Moby, a setting where the Rams haven’t lost the past two years.
So the question inevitably comes to mind: What can the Rams do to not make this season end in disappointment?
First of all, they need to see adversity and get into a few tight spots. That seems like a simple thing to do, but as of late has been difficult for the green and gold. When a team dominates — no, literally demoralizes — an opponent like CSU has done six of the past eight matches, it becomes harder and harder for them to handle pressure in a tight situation.
A match like the Rams had against Wyoming Friday night will actually benefit the team. CSU played poorly against the Cowgirls, yet they still found a way to ink out a win. Granted, UW isn’t as tough as many of the teams the Rams will face down the road, but it is still a good trick to have.
Next, the Rams can’t peak too early. Hilbert explained that “our thing is to be physically peaked at the end of the year,” and he couldn’t be more right. In 2007, CSU won 14 of 15 matches in the middle of the season. They closed out the year by going 3-3, losing a little more momentum every match.
While CSU is a quality team now, they can continually get better. By growing a little every match and playing their very best ball going into the tournament instead of midway through conference, the Rams may have that needed push to reach the next level.
Finally, CSU needs to keep focused on who they are. Before the first spike of the season thundered down from the arms of Mekana Barnes, the Rams knew that they had something special going. Fans, opponents and experts alike can see it to. If CSU can continue confidently through conference play and into the tournament, amazing things are going to happen.
Ram nation, you are in the midst of something that doesn’t happen often. With every kill, every ace and every dominating match CSU lays down, you are witnesses of history in the making. All that’s left to do is to sit back and enjoy.
Sports reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.