Bar set high for CSU ladies

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Aug 212011
 
Authors: Kyle Grabowski

Head coach Tom Hilbert and the CSU volleyball team are used to high expectations.

They are the two-time reigning Mountain West Champions and have been to the NCAA Tournament every year since 1995.

This year the Rams are ranked 15th in the American Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll, and were picked to finish first in the Mountain West by the league’s coaches.

“I’m proud that we get that attention,” Hilbert said. “But it really means nothing. Who ranks someone higher when they lose four starters? I don’t know about that.”

Due to CSU’s recent run of success, expectations are continually high both internally and from the community.

“Those expectations are always there regardless (of the preseason ranking),” Hilbert said. “I’m sure that (the team feels) a little pressure, but they just go out and practice every day and we need to not really worry about the rankings. We need to worry about playing well and getting better and winning the Mountain West Conference because that is the goal. If we can do that we’ve had a good season.”

No Ram is under more pressure individually this season than junior middle blocker Megan Plourde. She was named the preseason Mountain West Player of the Year, the fourth consecutive Ram to receive the honor.

“Megan has this switch that when she turns it on she can be really good,” Hilbert said. “I don’t mean that in a negative way, she can be cruising along during a game and when we need her she can turn it on and play great.”

Plourde ranked second nationally in blocks per game last season at 1.92, and set a school record with 19 blocks in the NCAA Tournament first round game against Cal State Fullerton.

“Personally I really don’t look at those honors as anything,” Plourde said. “I give credit to all of my teammates because they put me in position. My main goal is to keep my errors down.”

Expectations were also high last year, but the squad that will take the floor this season is vastly different from last year’s conference champions.

“It’s a huge change, but I feel like it’s really exciting having a whole new team basically,” Plourde said. “I feel really good about our progress in the preseason.”

CSU lost its top two outside hitters to graduation and all-conference setter Evan Sanders transferred to Washington, so the starting lineup has yet to be fully determined, which leads to a more competitive practice environment.

“This is my fifth year of two-a-days, and it’s a lot different than before,” redshirt senior Katelyn Steffan said. “In the past years we’ve had set positions and set hitters that have started before and now we have a lot of inexperience in different positions and a lot of players fighting for different spots.”

Steffan has dealt with the expectations before.

“It can get a couple different approaches, either confidence in some and in the others it’s trying to live up to that number, that high pedestal that people put us on,” she said. “It’s just a matter of coming out each night and playing like we’re No. 15 in the country.”

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

CSU Volleyball

  • National Ranking: No. 15
  • MW Ranking: No. 1
  • Preseason MW POY: Meagan Plourde
  • Consecutive NCAA
  • Tournaments Made: 16
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