The Colorado State volleyball team leaves the friendly confines of Moby Arena this weekend to face its toughest test of the season.
The Rams (2-1) head to Florida for the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational where they will face three teams in two days, including the No. 6 Florida Gators.
The team is bracing for their first matches without the â€œMoby Magicâ€ behind them. CSU knows that the road will present problems they havenâ€™t faced yet this season.
â€œ(Weâ€™ll see) situations where we really have to focus and learn how to really play together as a team, because we donâ€™t have the crowd to help get us amped up when we feel down,â€ said senior Jacque Davisson.
CSU starts the weekend today when it faces the Bowling Green at 8 a.m. At 3 p.m., the Rams play their second match of the day against the Great Danes from the University of Albany.
Both opponents saw mixed results from their opening week of play.
Bowling Green struggled in its first two matches, losing in straight sets to both Michigan State and Evansville. They then rebounded for a straight set win over IUPUI.
Albany started hot, winning its first two matches, dropping only one set along the way, beating Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville. The Great Danes then lost in straight sets to Clemson.
CSUâ€™s only match against Bowling Green occurred in 1999, resulting in a sweep for the Rams. CSU and Albany have never faced each other.
The Rams, ranked No. 15, will then face what is arguably their toughest match of the season when they play Florida Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Florida has already taken a stand to show themselves as true national title contenders this year after losing in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2009. Florida opened its season by beating Iowa State, which was ranked No. 9 at the time. The Gators followed that win by beating Nebraska, ranked No. 2 at the time.
â€œWeâ€™re definitely not blindsided by the fact that itâ€™s going to be more of a struggle than it would be playing at Moby,â€ said junior setter Evan Sanders about playing tough road games. â€œThatâ€™s something that you have to get used to. Itâ€™s not going to take us by surprise.â€
Most of the public attention will undoubtedly focus on the heavyweight matchup against Florida, but the team knows that at this point in the season the most important thing is to see continued improvement and growth in order to build a dominant team.
Coach Tom Hilbert is aware of the work that still needs to be put in to round the team into form.
â€œWe do have things to get better at and we all know it,â€ Hilbert said. â€œWeâ€™ll try to grow over the next weekend.â€
Volleyball beat reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.