After playing perhaps its best road match of the season in a win over New Mexico last Thursday, the CSU volleyball team slipped on Saturday in Texas against TCU, losing 3-1.
The loss leaves the Rams (20-3, 10-2 MWC) tied with Utah (19-5, 11-2 MWC) for first in the Mountain West Conference. Head coach Tom Hilbert said bluntly what the team needs to do to the rest of the season.
“We go home and we try to win two matches at home then we go on the road and try to sweep the Utah trip. You’ve got to play the next match,” Hilbert said.
CSU has four conference games remaining, with home dates against San Diego State and UNLV this week and the Utah road trip against BYU and Utah the following week. Utah meanwhile has just two home matches against BYU and Wyoming before the showdown with CSU on Nov. 22.
The team’s loss on Saturday can be attributed to its seventeen service errors, something the team has struggled with in the past few matches.
“We had an 11 point differential in the fourth game just in serving and passing, that’s half of the points for us practically,” Hilbert said. “They were because of our errors, able to side out easily. We couldn’t point score on serving, so they won the game.”
Frustrated, Hilbert could not pinpoint why the Rams have struggled with serving and passing recently, particularly on the road.
“We work on it every single day the entire year. We seem to be struggling on it in other people’s gyms,” Hilbert said. “We’re not playing as aggressive on the road.”
Usually reliable, the CSU defense and blocking was not up to its usual standard on Saturday. The team only recorded eight blocks and 50 digs compared to nine and 62 by the Horned Frogs.
“We didn’t block very well, and that’s probably my fault because that’s usually the result of bad preparation,” Hilbert said. “We didn’t play very good back court defense either. Those two areas need to get better. The funny thing is those are things we usually do pretty well, so it’s puzzling to me.”
The team was without defensive specialist Crystin Rodrick, who is out with a shoulder/neck injury sustained in the Rams win over Wyoming Oct. 24.
“We don’t have Crystin Rodrick with us and she is a very good defensive player and I think we could have used her,” Hilbert said.
Sophomore outside hitter Danielle Minch was a bright spot for the Rams as she came off the bench to record 12 kills and four service aces, prompting Hilbert to say she will most likely jump into the starting rotation this week against San Diego State and UNLV.
“Danielle was very very good,” Hilbert said. “She’s probably going to start for us because she was very good. She came off the bench for Jaime Strauss, who was struggling, and really did a nice job.”
The Rams take on San Diego State on Thursday at Moby.
Volleyball beat writer Stephen Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.