The Colorado State volleyball team has been struck by the injury bug as it prepares to face in-state and Mountain West Conference rival Air Force tonight.
Sophomore Dana Cranston and senior Danielle Minch are not expected to play this evening as they deal with injuries. Cranston is out with an elbow injury ,while Minch has picked up an ankle injury.
Coach Tom Hilbert is confident that Cranstonâ€™s injury is a short-term issue. The extent of Minchâ€™s injury is unknown at this time.
While there is never a good time to be shorthanded, the Rams may have caught a break in the opponent they face with key players out.
CSU (13-2, 3-0 MWC) has traditionally dominated the Air Force Academy, winning 32 of the 33 matches in the all-time series. The Rams havenâ€™t lost a single set to the Falcons since 2004.
â€œI think weâ€™ll be fine,â€ said sophomore Megan Plourde about dealing with injuries. â€œWe have a lot of depth on our team. A lot of the girls on our team can play multiple positions.â€
Junior Katelyn Steffan will fill in at outside hitter for Minch, while redshirt freshman Tori Brummet will take the place of Cranston.
The changes will force some of the leaders of the team to put more responsibility on their shoulders than normal.
â€œIt will force Jacque (Davisson) into more of a leadership role,â€ Hilbert said. â€œItâ€™s going to force Evan (Sanders) to be more accurate because sheâ€™s setting people who are playing in different spots.â€
Air Force (3-13, 0-3) has struggled in the early part of the season, but will be looking forward to returning home after playing 13 straight games on the road.
Air Force boasts senior outside hitter Caroline Kurtz, who is second in the MWC in kills with 217, an average of 3.62 kills per set.
The Rams know that Kurtz is the key to the Air Force attack and if they shut her down, then they cripple the Falconsâ€™ attack.
â€œShe carries a huge load,â€ Hilbert said. â€œSheâ€™s getting 75 percent of the balls, she gets lots of attacks.â€
The Rams donâ€™t have any specific game plan to stop Kurtz, feeling that if they are responsible in their assignments, they will be able to control her.
Normally, a game against an inferior opponent could lead to a sense of complacency, but the injuries will force everyone to focus on the task at hand.
â€œInjuries will force them (the team) to be alert because they are kind of in an uncomfortable spot,â€ Hilbert said. â€œIt should make us more ready.â€
After the trip down Interstate-25, the Rams will head to Las Vegas to face UNLV on Saturday. These two road games will test the depth of the squad and give CSU a chance to see how it fares without two of its key players.
â€œI think itâ€™s our opportunity to show the versatility that we do have on this team,â€ Sanders said. â€œAs unfortunate as it is to have some of our starters out, it does provide us an opportunity to get better.â€
The match is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
Volleyball beat reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.