The 2009 CSU volleyball season is officially underway after the Rams hosted the Asics/Coors Classic this weekend at Moby Arena. The round robin tournament featured west coast schools Pepperdine, Oregon State and Cal Poly.
The Rams, ranked No. 24 in the country, debuted Friday night in front of 3,876 fans, facing the Pepperdine Waves. Despite an electric environment provided by Ram fans, the Waves controlled the match (25-23, 25-17, 25-14), ending CSU’s 28-game home winning streak in the process.
Pepperdine’s up-tempo style caused trouble for the Rams blocking game, and as a result led to tougher digs and fewer opportunities.
“Defensively we are not where we need to be,” said head coach Tom Hilbert. “We need to be more disruptive.”
A similar challenge would be posed Saturday night by the Oregon State Beavers. Again, the Rams found themselves out of rhythm defensively, thanks in large part to the Beavers All-American outside hitter Rachel Rourke.
Rourke, a 6-foot-5 senior, dominated the match with 16 kills.
“We expected her to play well,” said Danielle Minch, the Rams junior outside hitter. “But we could’ve blocked her a lot better.”
After dropping their first six sets of the season, the CSU volleyball team decided enough was enough Sunday, calling a team meeting before their match with Cal Poly.
“We are a great team and we wanted to go
out and show everyone,” Minch said. “We made a decision that we were going to win this game.”
That decision was made loud and clear Sunday afternoon in the final match of the tournament as the Rams earned their first victory of the season by pounding the visiting Mustangs (25-19, 25-18, 25-19).
“Our serving really helped us today,” Hilbert said. “It allowed us to dictate the tempo.”
The Rams (1-2) were in control from the beginning, and for the first time this season played with confidence reminiscent of the 2008 squad.
“This win gives us something to build on,” said senior middle blocker Tessa Nelson. “It brings a real sense of hope for this team.”
The season-opening tournament proved a difficult task for the home-standing Rams; however, the Rams improved themselves markedly over the span of three days and the experience of facing three strong west coast programs will prove invaluable as the season progresses.
CSU will again take to the court this Thursday at 7 p.m., hosting the Georgia Southern Eagles in the 2009 Hilton Classic.
Volleyball beat writer Joel Hafnor can be reached at email@example.com.