The CSU volleyball team opens conference play tonight with a road contest against the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels at 8:15 p.m.
Since the inception of the Mountain West Conference ten years ago, there has been no more steady presence than the Rams, who lay claim to a combined ten regular season and tournament championships in that time.
Winning in Las Vegas has proven a difficult task for the Rams, who haven’t won at UNLV since 2006.
“Every time we show up there they play well,” said senior libero Katelin Batten. “They haven’t started the season well, but none of that matters.”
The Rebels (1-6), have struggled thus far and have won just a single set in the entire month of September. Still, head coach Tom Hilbert is concerned with how his team will adjust to UNLV’s unique offensive scheme, which includes three hitters.
“They almost always have three hitters,” said Hilbert, the six-time MWC coach of the year. “They play great defensively, and we will have to do the same.”
The Rams began the year at 0-2, after being swept in succession by Pepperdine and Oregon State, but have since won seven of their past eight matches, collecting two tournament titles in the process. Junior outside hitter Jacque Davisson attributes the success to the team’s togetherness.
“No matter the situation, we are always determined to be a team,” Davisson said. “Six players on the court with one goal in mind.”
That team-first mentality has been vital in the Rams development this year, especially in their ability to finish close sets and matches.
“We won a lot of close games at the end last weekend,” Hilbert said. “Two sets against Tennessee, one against North Carolina and another two against Marshall. We really battled.”
The team welcomed back valuable sophomore outside hitter Katelyn Steffan in last weekend’s Carolina Classic. Steffan played in the team’s finals contest against North Carolina, her first match since injuring her foot Aug. 29 against Oregon State.
“(Steffan) made some critical plays for us,” Hilbert said. “She still favors the foot a little.”
Volleyball beat reporter Joel Hafnor can be reached at email@example.com