When high expectations are placed on a team, it is not unusual to see that squad crumble under the burden of those expectations. The Colorado State volleyball team, however, is embracing the pressure put on them heading into the season.
The Rams begin the season ranked No. 17 nationally by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. With five returning starters and an incoming freshman class ranked No. 15 nationally by PrepVolleyball.com, CSU was picked to repeat as Mountain West Conference champions by the leagueâ€™s coaches and media members.
â€œIâ€™m glad we get those preseason rankings,â€ said coach Tom Hilbert. â€œIt shows that people around the country respect our program.â€
Rather than seeing these accolades as a burden, the team is happy to earn the national recognition.
Bringing in these preseason numbers, the team seems excited by the idea of having a target placed on them in every match. They feel that the prospect of playing in loud arenas with everyone rooting against them will be a positive.
â€œEverywhere we play is like a rivalry for us,â€ said senior Jacque Davisson. â€œWe feed off of the energy of the crowd.â€
The fact that everyone will be aiming to knock CSU off could seem daunting to some teams, but the Rams feel that this fact will make them focus even more on the task at hand.
CSU plans on using its ranking and the role of being the hunted as motivation to make sure that the team performs at a high level throughout the season.
â€œOur biggest focus is to not let that outside pressure affect us,â€ said senior Danielle Minch. â€œI think it will keep us on our toes, keep us working hard, keep us improving.â€
Davisson echoed those thoughts, saying that the high rankings will help the team stay sharp mentally. She said that knowing that every match their opponents will be trying to knock them off of their pedestal will keep the team keenly focused at all times.
Many people expect the Rams to at least match the teamâ€™s output of last season, where it reached Regional Semifinal in the NCAA Tournament, if not exceed it.
Ultimately, the Rams know that success this season will have nothing to do with the praise being given to the team right now. CSU knows that it will have to earn everything that they get this season.
The team knows the work that has been put in to earn the preseason praise they have received and they know that they will have to work even harder to maintain their ranking and fulfill the high expectations that have been placed on them.
â€œYou have to prove it every week,â€ coach Hilbert said. â€œYou have to earn it every day.â€
Volleyball Beat Reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at email@example.com.