David and Goliath are frequently used as an analogy in reference to sporting events. The little guy takes on the powerhouse and fans cheer loudly while holding up collars in support of the underdog. But tonight, the CSU volleyball team (Goliath) will be receiving the cheers and support as they try and extend their Moby winning streak to 10.
The Rams (18-4, 10-1 MWC) have been unstoppable in their home gym since dropping their first two matches of the season. Their opponent, Air Force (8-16, 0-11 MWC), will be trying to prove they are not the worst team in the Mountain West by getting their first conference win and tying with 1-10 Wyoming.
“They have nothing to lose,” said Jacque Davisson, who led the Rams in kills the last time the teams faced off. “At this point they’re going to work their butts off. I would go out, as a player, with absolutely nothing to lose and just swing my heart out. So, I think that’s what we need to expect.”
Unfortunately for fans of the Falcons, past dictates the future. And in the past, the Rams have been very successful against Air Force.
The Rams are 30-1 all time versus the lady cadets and the last time the two teams met the Rams won in straight sets, but they were close ones. The Rams escaped Air Force by only ten points over three sets and finished with a kill percentage of .144 to Air Force’s .149.
Head coach Tom Hilbert called this match a “trap game,” saying his team hasn’t yet, but could, overlook the Falcons and get surprised, an outcome senior middle blocker Tessa Nelson wants to avoid.
“They’re a good team,” Nelson said. “They’re an improving team for sure, and they can’t be overlooked in our conference. Their strength would definitely be their defense. We’re going to have to use our physicality.”
Air Force is known for their scrappy and energetic defense, which will be a point of emphasis for a Ram team that’s become accustomed to facing dangerous defensive teams.
“We have to out defend them. If we bring enough energy to the court, we’ll play more scrappy than they will because we’re that kind of team,” Hilbert said. “But you got to bring some energy.”
The Rams have exceeded the expectation watermark for the season, but with such success comes more pressure. The Rams weren’t looking to be atop of the MWC at this point in the season. The potential was there, but the outlook wasn’t quite as high. Now, the Rams have created a whole new brand of prospects.
“The consistency we’ve played with (has) surprised me,” Hilbert said. “(We’ve) seen some kids really settle into roles and do a good job. Now they’ve created new expectations, and we have to fulfill those.”
The Rams are only six wins away from a conference championship. Any loss could cost CSU that consistency they’ve played with so far, and without a postseason conference tournament each game has a special importance.
“Every game we need to go into it ready to just battle and play like it’s for the conference championship, cause it is,” Nelson said.
Volleyball Beat Reporter Keith Robertson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.