Sequels rarely live up to the original, but CSU Volleyball looks to top last seasonâ€™s Sweet Sixteen campaign in 2010.
Following a 25-6 season, which ended in an NCAA Tournament loss to Minnesota, the Rams continued their hard work during the offseason.
â€œWe went through some pretty tough workouts,â€ outside hitter Danielle Minch said. â€œThere was some heavy lifting scheduled three times a day.â€
Even with all of the hard work, however, CSU was forced to persevere through adversity.
Setter Evan Sanders broke her ankle during the spring, which presented challenges both for the team and her, individually.
â€œThere were some tempo things we didnâ€™t get to do without our starting setter (Sanders),â€ coach Tom Hilbert said, â€œbut we worked on non-setters setting, and that helped us in other ways.â€
Sanders participated in USA Volleyballâ€™s National A2 Program, which met on May 24 in Tempe, Ariz. Her ankle, however, limited her physically.
â€œIt was a different experience for me,â€ she said. â€œIt was more of a learning experience; learning maturity, leadership and what setters are capable of doing.â€
After last seasonâ€™s unexpected success, the Rams and their fans have high hopes for 2010.
â€œTheyâ€™re the same expectations every year,â€ Hilbert said. â€œWe want to improve as the year goes on and play our best in November and December.â€
â€œObviously the publicâ€™s expectations are going to be high, but we canâ€™t get caught up in that. We just have to go out there and try to win the next match.â€
Even with much expected of them, the Rams donâ€™t plan to cripple under the pressure.
â€œItâ€™s not something weâ€™re going to back down from,â€ Sanders said. â€œWe know we have a target on our back, and we donâ€™t want it any other way.â€
CSU opens the season on Aug. 27 against Duke, a team the Rams lost to 3-1 in Durham, N.C. last season. The Blue Devils made the NCAA Tournament last year, losing in the first round to Tennessee.
â€œThereâ€™s a little sense of payback,â€ Minch said.
â€œThey beat us last year,â€ Hilbert added, â€œso this is a chance to rectify that and play better. We want to get our fans fired up and test our team early.â€
Even with the added pressure of a previous successful season, Hilbert feels optimistic.
â€œWe need to improve defensively,â€ he said, â€œbut we have the maturity and talent to win the Mountain West Conference.â€
Volleyball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.