Apr 262011
Authors: Kyle Grabowski

The CSU volleyball team ended its spring exhibition season with a five-set loss to Chinese professional team Tianjin Bridgestone Tuesday night in Moby Arena. The Rams dropped the game’s last three sets after winning the first two, falling 11-15 in the fifth set.

“I think they’re a really smart team,” said sophomore libero Izzy Gaulia. “After they got into it they started doing some crazy things, and we didn’t adjust as quickly as we could have.”

Tianjin’s starting setter got sick before Tuesday’s game and did not play, but Chen Xintong filled in admirably, collecting 43 assists and eight digs for the evening. Four different players reached double-digit digs, led by Wang Qian’s 18.

“Their offense is higher (with Chen),” said CSU head coach Tom Hilbert, “which allowed them to block better.”

Tianjin finished with 16 blocking assists and nine team blocks, including five in the decisive fifth set.

CSU’s junior opposite hitter Kaetlyn Steffan led the Rams with 18 kills, but overall the offense struggled. CSU’s hitting percentage dropped in every set, from 32.4 percent in the first set down to zero and into the negatives for the fourth and fifth sets. Freshman setter Deedra Foss started and finished the game for the Rams, playing in parts of four sets. She finished with 34 assists.

“I think I handled myself pretty well,” Foss said, “for it being the first time in an actual game setup like that.”

Foss and fellow freshman Katie Rutherford have been in competition for the starting setter spot since all-conference starter Evan Sanders left the team to transfer to the University of Washington. Rutherfod entered the match in the third set and played until the end of the fourth, picking up eight assists and seven blocking assists.

“(Katie) was helping us block, and at first she played very well,” Hilbert said. “But when she gets tired and she sets higher and higher and higher and we just can’t have that.”
Despite losing the match, CSU wrapped up a productive and beneficial spring.

“For the inexperienced team that we have, we improved a lot and showed a lot of maturity at the end of the spring,” Steffan said.

More than 1,500 people attended the game, which was lower than the Rams’ average of 2,180 from the regular season, but both coaches and players were pleased with the turnout for a spring exhibition match. Supporters of Tianjin Bridgestone filled roughly half of the west student section, chanting for most of the night and waving Chinese flags.

“I felt like it was fall again. It doesn’t seem like spring,” Steffan said. “I’m glad we promoted it as much as we did.”

Volleyball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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