After capturing their second tournament title of the season this weekend in North Carolina, it appears the CSU volleyball team has returned to its culture of winning.
This weekend’s Carolina Classic championship included wins over Marshall, Tennessee and North Carolina and marked the temporary end of the non-conference slate for CSU. The Rams finished pre-conference play with a 7-3 record, including wins over three previously unbeaten programs: Ohio State, Georgia Southern and Marshall.
“We won a lot of close games at the end,” said head coach Tom Hilbert. “We were good competitors in the Carolina Classic.”
That competitive edge was on display as the Rams won close games down the stretch throughout the tournament. None were more important than their victories in sets one and two against Tennessee.
“We had some super clutch-end game wins against Tennessee,” said junior outside hitter Jacque Davisson, who was named to the all-tournament team over the weekend. “This gives us confidence going on the road in conference.”
The tournament gave the Rams a glimpse of what it may be like in the NCAA Tournament come December, playing on the road against big time programs.
The key to the Rams improvement this season has been the progression of rising star Danielle Minch, who was named MVP of the Carolina Classic.
“I’ve been getting more patient and am driving into every ball now,” said Minch, the Rams junior outside hitter. “Vision is also something I’ve been working on.”
Though it’s the offensive players that often get the most notoriety for their accomplishments, it’s the defense that is receiving the highest praise from Hilbert.
“I never thought I’d say this, but it’s our defense. We’ve been blocking the ball really well,” Hilbert said when asked what he thought the strength of his club was. “Two weeks ago, I would not have said the same thing.”
With the conference schedule comes new challenges for the Rams, namely the familiarity their opponents will have, but senior libero Katelin Batten likes to think of it as a double-edged sword.
“We already know what they do,” Batten said, “And what to expect.”
The team now prepares to make another run at a conference championship as they begin their two-month long conference schedule this Friday night at UNLV.
The Rams conference opener against UNLV can be heard Friday at 8 p.m. on 90.5 KCSU.
Volleyball beat reporter Joel Hafnor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.