Playing away from the friendly confines of Moby Arena for the first time since Sept. 10, the Rams defeated Air Force at Clune Arena in three sets (25-11, 25-20, 25-23) for its 29th consecutive win over the Falcons Thursday night.
The match gave head coach Tom Hilbert the opportunity to display his team’s depth and mix and match with different lineups.
“We used many different lineups tonight and I was able to put people in a lot of different types of situations,” said Hilbert. “We gained valuable experience for a lot of players.”
Sophomore Danielle Minch was one of these players given more playing time and responded well – leading the team in kills with nine.
“It’s always exciting to get out there on the court and play,” said the outside hitter Minch. “I could’ve played with a few less errors, so coach told me to play like we practice, and I responded better.”
Junior libero Katelyn Batten said it was good for the team to play with the different lineups and gain valuable experience, which can be used down the road.
“They’ll be able to look back and say, ‘Hey, I’ve been in this situation before and not be so raw,'” said Batten.
After quickly putting the Falcons away in the first set, the Rams may have played down to their competition, letting Air Force back in the game.
“We knew we couldn’t overlook them, but I think we played down a little bit and didn’t play our top notch game,” said Minch. “We kind of let the errors build up that last set.”
Hilbert said the mixing up of the lineups probably allowed a few more points to get by.
“A few points were the result of the different lineups,” said Hilbert. “That’s not quite fair though, because I put the players in some uncomfortable positions they’re not used to.”
The Falcons almost won the third set, at one point being up 19-13, but they could not hold on as the Rams stormed back, not feeling any nerves.
“We stayed composed and played real balanced during the third set,” said Batten. “The main thing was keeping our composure, which we did well.”
Senior setter Ashley Fornstrom described the Falcons as scrappy.
“I have to give Air Force a lot of credit. They took us out of our game and played really well. They made us feel uncomfortable,” said Fornstrom. “They’re a real scrappy team and fight for every point and keep the rallies going.”
Fornstrom though was a little concerned with the team’s performance in a building other than their own.
“I’m not really sure if we were ready or not (to play on the road),” said Fornstrom. “I think we were in the first game and then relaxed too much. We let their environment get to us.”
The Rams return back to Moby on Saturday for a match against the No. 24 Arizona Wildcats, a match Hilbert said will be very tough.
“They are very athletic and competitive,” said Hilbert. “It is going to be a huge challenge for us.”
Volleyball beat writer Stephen Meyers can be reached at email@example.com.