When a team is on a roll like the CSU volleyball team, it can be easy for them to become lackadaisical and have their performance in practice suffer.
Despite their current 10-game winning streak, the Rams don’t seem to be showing any signs of complacency, and they performed so well on Monday that head coach Tom Hilbert cut short practice as a reward.
Though the Rams face the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley tonight (7 p.m.), the move has nothing to do with the Rams taking their next opponent lightly, as they know they are in for a stiff test.
“They’re a real scrappy team, and they have a couple of really nice athletes. They are going to be tough. They beat a couple of good teams this year, so it will be competitive. They are up for the match, and so are we,” said CSU junior libero Katelin Batten.
Though CSU beat UNC last season, the Bears, who are 10-3 on the year, have already equaled last season’s win total, and Hilbert said the Bears’ attacking strength will test the Rams.
“We are going to have to work at our blocking and defense, it is not just going to happen. We should do okay siding-out against them, but there are certain points where we are going to have to work hard, because they don’t give you much,” said Hilbert.
Additionally, the Rams are expecting UNC to pack the Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion for the match. The Rams have spent much of their time at home this season, and they know that getting wins in tough road venues will be important for conference play.
“It is super important for us to play these games on the road, because this is just our sixth game away from Moby. When we start traveling in conference, we need to be prepared to face hostile environments,” said Jacque Davisson, a sophomore outside hitter.
Rams and the Rankings
Despite going 2-0 last week, the Rams (13-1, 4-0 in conference) actually dropped one spot in the rankings, down to No. 13.
The news came as a bit of a surprise to the Rams, who figured their victory over No. 25 Arizona on Saturday would help them in the rankings, but the team that took CSU’s spot, Minnesota, beat two ranked teams last week, Purdue and Illinois.
“I wasn’t expecting (to drop), and I don’t think that any of us were. It doesn’t really mean anything right now. I am a little surprised, but it isn’t a big deal so early in the year,” Batten said.
The Rams are now the only Mountain West team to be ranked in the new poll, as BYU dropped out of the No. 21 slot following road losses to New Mexico and TCU, a trip the Rams still have to face this season.
The two upsets show just how deep the league is this season, as the big three (CSU, Utah and BYU) are no longer alone at the top.
“Our conference is becoming more diverse. The way things are shaping up this year it’s not three big teams anymore. Everybody is pulling upsets, so we just have to keep focused on what we are doing,” Batten said. “As we go on the road, we have to be prepared for long rallies and for teams to play their best against us.”
Volleyball beat writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.