The Colorado State volleyball team spent its Thanksgiving break accomplishing their pre-season goal of winning a 13th Mountain West Conference championship.
Following the Rams Nov. 18 win at Wyoming, which clinched at least a share of the Mountain West Conference title, second-place New Mexico lost at BYU, giving the Rams the title outright.
CSUâ€™s next match came on Wednesday at home against Utah for the final time in the Mountain West Conference. After being officially crowned the conference champions, the Rams promptly won the first set, but couldnâ€™t hold the lead as the Utes stormed back to win the match 3-1.
Three Utes broke the double-digit mark in kills, led by junior middle blocker Danielle Killpackâ€™s 16 kill performance. Wednesdayâ€™s loss was CSUâ€™s first MWC home loss since 2006.
â€œI donâ€™t think our team didnâ€™t play hard, I just donâ€™t think weâ€™ve had enough situations like this,â€ head coach Tom Hilbert said. â€œWe need to be better at the end of tough sets; we have the NCAA tournament coming up.â€
The Rams wrapped up the regular season with a four-set win against BYU on Senior Night. The two sides split the first two sets before CSU took control in the final two frames.
â€œWe came out in set one and played pretty well,â€ Hilbert said. â€œWe served decently, although they passed pretty well. We sided-out at 77 percent, which was the highest that we had done in a while.â€
Outside hitter Danielle Minch shined in her final home match, tallying 16 kills to pace the Rams.
By virtue of winning the MWC regular season title, CSU gained an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Rams are unseeded in the Dayton Regional and will play No. 25 Cal State Fullerton in Stanford, Calif. on Dec. 3.
The Titans enter the tournament as the champions of the Big West Conference for the first time in school history and have won their last nine matches.
Head coach Carolyn Zimmerman was named the Big West Coach of the Year while senior middle blocker Erin Saddler won the Player of the Year in the Big West. Saddler averaged 4.37 kills per set during the regular season.
Volleyball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.