The giant Ram head in the middle of Moby’s floor will get to see the silver screen tonight as the Rams host two firsts — their first conference game against New Mexico (10-4, 0-1 MWC) and their first televised game that will air live on the Mountain Network tonight at 7:30 p.m.
The Rams (8-3, 1-0 MWC) are fresh off their first conference win after they beat UNLV on their home court last Friday. CSU has also started a four game winning streak.
After dropping their first two home matches this season, the Rams have gone 4-0 on the wooden floors of Moby and have a current 4-0 streak on the road. Although the Rams have had success as of late, they know that Lobos can bite./
“We’re feeling like New Mexico is pretty good,” head coach Tom Hilbert said after practice at Moby Arena on Wednesday. “They will bring a great competitive environment into this gym. We’re going to have to play defense at their level or above and block them very well.”
Senior libero Katelin Batten said New Mexico was a very powerful team offensively, and the Rams will have to continue playing stellar defense if they want to win in front of a large television audience.
The Rams have been working all week to anticipate the Lobos attack before it happens. The Lobos are expected to have a lot of quick attacks in the match and the Rams feel confident they’re prepared for such an event.
The crowds are always a little bigger for TV games and the intensity of conference matches is always thicker than pea soup. But chilly weather has made the Rams hungry for soup.
“I’m excited about it,” senior middle blocker Tessa Nelson said. “It’s nice to be in conference play again. It should be exciting. Hopefully our fans come out.”
The first 300 students through the door get a free T-shirt and if fans get their homemade signs on The Mtn’s telecast they could win a prize – as long as its registered before the game.
There could also be some newer faces on the court tonight. Hilbert says he could play multiple players in this match including youngsters Katelyn Steffan and Dana Cranston, both of whom have 16 blocks in their limited roles so far this season.
There is also the possibility that Brieon Paige, a redshirt freshman who played in her first game since high school early in the season, could get some action. The 6-foot-2 Paige is tied for first in kill percentage at .333 and this match could be the time for Ram nation to get familiar with her.
By and large the team is excited to get into the nitty gritty that is conference play. Batten knows what lies ahead with the Rams tough opponent and their debut into television stardom – and she’s ready for it.
“It’s always fun playing on TV, (and) we’re all really excited,” the team’s dig leader said. “I expect us to win. But I expect it to be a battle.”
Tonight’s match can be heard on 90.5 KCSU.
Sports writer Keith Robertson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.