The cream of the Mountain West Conference volleyball crop will be on display tonight as CSU heads to Albuquerque, N.M. to take on the New Mexico Lobos.
The Lobos currently trail the Rams by three games in the loss column and can take a big step toward conference title contention with a win.
â€œThey have a huge stake in winning this match,â€ said CSU coach Tom Hilbert. â€œThis match may define their season.â€
Seniors Taylor Hadfield and Lisa Metter, at middle blocker and outside hitter, respectively, rank in the conferenceâ€™s top eight as far as kills per set.
â€œItâ€™s difficult because usually we can double up on some teams,â€ said senior outside hitter Danielle Minch. â€œBut since we have to balance it, weâ€™ll be able to handle it because we have good middle blockers.â€
CSU kept Meeter in check for the first game of the series in Fort Collins, holding her to just three kills, but Hadfield exploded for 12 kills and hit .429 for the match.
â€œItâ€™s always a challenge when they have multiple hitters for our blockers and defenders,â€ senior libero Audrey Hemmings said.
New Mexico has not defeated the Rams since 2005, and CSU has come out on top in 29 of its last 30 match ups.
â€œI donâ€™t really think about that,â€ Minch said. â€œThey beat TCU when they played them in three (sets) and we know that they are a great team.â€
The Lobos are currently riding a five-game winning streak while defeating their last six opponents at the Johnson Center.
Tonightâ€™s match marks the first game in CSUâ€™s last road stretch of the season. The Rams play tonight in New Mexico, Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas, and next week at Wyoming to finish off their road schedule for the year.
â€œItâ€™s kind of crazy that itâ€™s already toward the end of the season and we only have these three away games left,â€ Hemmings said. â€œI mean, it means that the NCAAâ€™s are coming up and thatâ€™s kind of exciting.â€
CSU will finish the season with two home games against Utah and Brigham Young following that stretch.
â€œIâ€™m happy that we are finishing the regular season at home,â€ Hilbert said. â€œThis is a stretch that we identified early as being difficult. I feel like weâ€™ve had a pretty good week of practice and I think weâ€™re ready.â€
Volleyball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at email@example.com.