The CSU volleyball team doesn’t seem to be acting like there is much pressure on them, even though this weekend’s trip will be the biggest of their season.
The Rams head to Utah for a two-game swing against the Brigham Young Cougars and the Utah Utes, and if CSU can sweep both, the Mountain West Conference title will reside in Fort Collins for the seventh time. If not, it will belong to the Utes, with whom the Rams are currently tied.
It seems like a time where the No. 15 Rams (22-3, 11-2 MWC) should be tense, but the Rams said they are prepared and ready to take on BYU tonight (7 p.m. on the MTN) and Utah on Saturday (1 p.m.).
“We are in a good frame of mind,” Hilbert said. “We have to be fresh and have excitement if we want to win.”
Hilbert said he expects the excitement will be taken care of by the match’s importance, and that he limited practice lengths this week to ensure that they wouldn’t be overworked. The move certainly seemed to put his players in the right frame of mind, especially after some felt they were “dragging a little” earlier this season.
“I am super excited. It seems like every year it ends up this way at the end of the season,” said junior libero Katelin Batten. “We play well under pressure, and we have been looking good in practice and feeling fresh, super-fresh.”
A glaring issue for the Rams this week is that sophomore outside hitter Jacque Davisson sprained her right ankle in Tuesday’s practice. Hilbert said it would be a game-time decision, but she was on crutches and wearing a boot on Wednesday.
Davisson will be replaced by fellow sophomore Danielle Minch, who for much of the season has been the first Ram off the bench, and Hilbert said she has excelled in the three matches.
“I am very ready to help the team out,” Minch said. “I wish that (Davisson) wouldn’t have to get hurt for it to happen, but I am excited for the chance to really help the team.”
She feels that she is capable of replacing Davisson with her play but that the Rams will have to come together to replace their injured teammate’s passion and heart when they are on the court.
BYU and Utah usually are the two biggest threats to the Rams in the conference race, and even though the Cougars (12-12, 5-9 MWC) have struggled this season, Hilbert was careful to note that BYU is never an easy opponent and that the Rams can’t look past them.
Even with Davisson’s injury, Hilbert sounded confident that his team could get the two tough wins necessary to bring back a conference crown.
“I would be flipped out if these were matches that we were supposed to win, but I’m excited because these are the types of matches where we usually play well,” Hilbert said.
Volleyball beat writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at email@example.com.
No. 15 CSU (22-3,11-2) vs. BYU (12-12,5-9)
When: 7 p.m. tonight
Where: Provo, Utah
CSU vs. Utah (20-5,12-2)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Salt Lake City, Utah