Over the weekend the CSU volleyball team tossed their tired old green and gold jerseys in the hamper to sport shiny new pink ones.
Saturday, the Rams did their part to raise breast cancer awareness but they also did their part in a clean sweep over the Utah Utes (13-7, 6-2 MWC)./
The Rams (16-3, 8-0) dominated the Utes, winning by 10 or more in each of the three sets (25-14, 25-13, 25-15). The win over second-place Utah was an exclamation point of a large CSU accomplishment.
The Rams have now beaten every school in the Mountain West, gained a two-match lead over the conference leading Utes and extended their winning streak to 12. The success is certainly welcomed, but the Rams understand the consequences of being the top team.
“It feels really good,” said junior outside hitter Danielle Minch. “We worked really hard. We’ve had something to prove this whole season, (and) we can’t stop now. We have another round with everybody. We’ve got a target on our back.”
Minch will certainly be targeted or at least have games planned around her in the matches to come. The one they call “D” was the driving force behind the convincing win. She led all players with 19 kills with a .469 hit percentage.
Utah had no answer for the Rams leading killer and it showed right off the bat as Minch landed nine of 10 kill attempts in the first set.
“This was Danielle Minch’s best match of her career, without a doubt,” Hilbert said. “She is a super talented kid, and/I’m very proud of her. Everything was clicking and she was very good and I want Danielle to remember that this is who she is.”
The Rams played a complete game, and though the word is getting overused, they played with what Hilbert has been stressing all season, “maturity.” CSU was able to win every long rally and didn’t seem penetrable.
There were countless occasions when sure Utah points were turned into incredible CSU digs as flashes of pink were seen rolling across the wooden floors.
“Our defense and blocking were key today,” Hilbert said. “We didn’t have as many stuff blocks, but we controlled a lot of tips, and really did a nice job of disrupting Utah.”/
Utah finished the game with a kill percentage of .078 with 16 more kill attempts than the Rams and were out-dug by 30. After a lineup change in the third set, the Utes finally seemed to play up to their second place ranking, as they were even with the Rams at 12. But after a six point run the Rams pulled away and Minch finished the final set with monster kill./
“When we play BYU and Utah, I’m out for blood,” Minch said.
The Rams have finished the first half of the conference season without dropping a match but everybody has now played witness to their talent.
“We know that the toughest road matches are ahead of us, beginning next week at TCU and New Mexico,” Hilbert said. “We’re better than they thought we were and there is a little bit of a shock value. Now they’re going to know.”
The Rams play a televised game Thursday in Fort Worth against the Horned Frogs.
Volleyball beat reporter Keith Robertson can be reached at email@example.com.