The No. 14 CSU volleyball team will be shorthanded against Air Force on Saturday as they look to extend two impressive winning streaks.
The Rams have won 25-straight matches at Moby Arena and have defeated the Falcons the last 29 times they have played, but this time, CSU will be without starting opposite hitter Katelyn Steffan and reserve defensive specialist Crystin Rodrick for the game, while senior outside hitter Jamie Strauss is still working her way back from a concussion.
The losses will force the Rams to adjust their lineup, but they are confident that they have the depth to overcome the injuries.
“Pretty much everyone on our team is capable to step into somebody else’s shoes if they can’t play,” said freshman Evan Sanders, who is the Rams setter of the future, but who played outside hitter in high school, a role that she has had to fill for the Rams lately.
Fortunately for the Rams, these injuries have come during a stretch were the Rams have had just two matches in the last two weeks, so they have had time to get healthy.
Head coach Tom Hilbert said that the effects of having both Strauss and Steffan miss practice were mixed, as it kept him from working with them, but it allowed sophomore hitters Jacque Davisson and Danielle Minch to play a more prominent role.
The Rams only have eight regular season games remaining, and Hilbert feels that there is still plenty left for his team to improve on, if they want to achieve their goals this season.
“We have eight matches in a month and we have hopefully two-to-three weeks more in the NCAA Tournament, so I hate to use the words home stretch, because your team can let up. We have to practice hard and improve ourselves to play the best teams in the country,” Hilbert said.
Though the Rams have lost just six sets to Air Force in the entire history of the series, the Rams still feel that the Falcons will be a challenge.
“They can be kind of scrappy on defense and they don’t really have anything to lose. They will come out with a lot spirit and they will play us really tough,” Strauss said.
Hilbert said that Air Force is almost impossible to game plan for because they switch up their style every match, and he singled out Jasamine Pettie, the Falcons middle blocker, as a player to watch out for.
CSU beat Air Force 3-0 in Colorado Springs earlier this season, and they are looking for a similar result this time around.
“Every team is going to play their best game against us, because they don’t have anything to lose, so I expect them to fight, but if we take care of our job, it shouldn’t look too different than our last match against them,” Sanders said.
Volleyball beat writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.