Last season the CSU volleyball team (11-3) beat their sisters from across the interstate in four sets, but last night it took the Rams all five sets they were allowed to finish off Northern Colorado (9-7).
“Any win can be taken from any team at any day,” said setter Evan Sanders. “You got to find a way to win and we did that tonight.”
The first set was the battle the two teams expected and ended 25-23 in favor of the Rams.
The Rams hold the height and talent advantage and proved it by having almost double the kill percentage than UNC. But the first set was won with stellar defense – the Rams out-blocked the Bears 4.5-1.
The main issue all night was mistakes. The Rams held themselves even in attacking errors, but had three more service errors than UNC, allowing the Bears to get back into the match.
That momentum found its way into the second set. CSU was out-blocked by two in the second, and their attacking errors jumped from five to 13. They made a late rally and eventually tied it up at 21, but poor play at the net and a wild kill by UNC’s Kelly Arnold ended the set.
Frustration set in on the Rams, and redshirt freshman Megan Plourde used it to her advantage. After the match she walked to the locker room with 13 kills, two blocks and more minutes on the floor than she was used to.
“I was getting blocked from them (UNC), and I guess I just it was getting me more pumped up. I wanted to kill it,” Plourde said.
The third was more of the same. The Rams started out dominant, going on a five-point run and nabbing a 16-10 advantage, but silly Bears always steal the picnic basket.
UNC came back and tied the game at 22, however, with a great save by Dana Cranston that almost landed her in the student section, the Rams were able to put two more on the board and walk away with a 2-1 advantage.
“I really thought we were going to win after we went up by two,” head coach Tom Hilbert said. “I don’t think we played with a great deal of maturity.”
Pushed to four sets, both teams were fired up. However, it was the Bears who made the plays to win the set. The Rams were forced to bring in senior middle blocker Tessa Nelson to amp up the defense, and she did.
Nelson was part of three critical blocks in the fourth set, but it just wasn’t enough, and the Rams lost a squeaker set 25-21.
In the final set each team had its chances to celebrate, but when the score was tied at 13 the air thickened with tension. After a service error, the Rams and Bears met for a melee at the net with the Rams coming out victorious, winning the final set 15-13.
The bright smile and intense attitude of senior Jacque Davisson was present as always and her 16 kills and two service aces made up a big slice of victory pie.
“Jacque, to me, was out stalwart. She was our stalwart Ram,” Hilbert said. “She just kept battling.”
Hilbert said this was the best UNC team he has ever seen, but his team can’t give the other one points. The Rams had a total of 12 service errors and were called for more net infractions than normal.
“You can’t really blame that on anything. The fact is, we just did it,” Hilbert said. “The message I want to send to the team is this is not indicative of the way we have been playing.”
The Rams look to extend their winning streak to eight tomorrow as the Rams travel north to face boarder rival Wyoming.
Volleyball beat reporter Keith Robertson can be reached at email@example.com.