For the second straight match, the Colorado State volleyball team played without the reigning Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Danielle Minch, and for the second straight match the Rams swept their opponent.
Dana Cranston returned to the lineup after missing the last match due to an elbow injury and she tallied a career-high in kills with 10 as the Rams swept UNLV Saturday afternoon 25-15, 25-19, 25-23.
Cranstonâ€™s return to the lineup allowed the Rams to move to a more comfortable rotation than they were forced to use Thursday against Air Force. CSU (15-2, 5-0 MWC) was led behind a dominant effort from Cranston, who hit .346 while committing only one attacking error.
â€œIt feels good to contribute to the team,â€ Cranston said. â€œI just wanted to help in any way I can.â€
Megan Plourde matched Cranstonâ€™s total for match-high honors in kills with 10 while hitting an impressive .529.
Playing the last two games with Minch out nursing an ankle injury has forced CSU to adapt its attack and find ways to score points without having the safety blanket of the MWC Player of the Year to fall back on if the Rams are struggling.
On Thursday, without both Minch and Cranston, the Rams used a lineup with Katelyn Steffan in Minchâ€™s spot on the left-side while Tori Brummett filled the spot vacated by Steffanâ€™s position change.
Upon the return of Cranston on Saturday, the Rams moved Steffan back to her normal position on the right while Jacque Davisson took Minchâ€™s spot on the left and Cranston filled Davissonâ€™s spot.
If that sounds like a lot of moving parts, thatâ€™s because it is.
â€œThatâ€™s very hard for the players,â€ said coach Tom Hilbert about all of the rotation changes in a short span.
While the changes were difficult to manage, the fact that the Rams were able to win consecutive road matches in straight sets has given the team confidence that it can cope with difficult circumstances.
The performances displayed by players filling roles different from those they normally do has confirmed the teamâ€™s belief in their overall quality.
â€œIt shows you how much you can do,â€ Cranston said of players filling different roles. â€œItâ€™s a good confidence booster. It proves we are good and have a deep bench.â€
Hilbert feels that the team has learned new ways to attack with Minch out of the lineup and that when she returns they will be more comfortable using attacking options other than Minch to prevent teams from focusing their defense solely on her.
The Rams know that the added comfort level they have found will help them in the future.
â€œI think it will be a big plus for us when Dani comes back,â€ Davisson said. â€œWe were forced to do things with Dani out and that will definitely add versatility.â€
Volleyball beat reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at email@example.com.