Moby Arena opened its doors with a bang as the CSU volleyball team defeated Nebraska and Albany over the weekend on consecutive nights.
The Rams opened their home season Friday night with a 3-2 win against No. 5 Nebraska in front of a Mountain West volleyball record crowd of 6,750.
They didnâ€™t look the part of a winner early, however, falling behind 2-0 in the first two sets after being thoroughly outplayed.
â€œWe genuinely looked as bad as Iâ€™ve seen us look,â€ Coach Tom Hilbert said. â€œWe looked so terrible because theyâ€™re really good.â€
Nebraska held the Rams to a sub-.100 hitting percentage for the first two sets while hitting over .400 on the offensive end. The Huskers won the first two sets by a combined score of 50-23 while CSU barely got into double digits in the second set.
Seemingly out of nowhere in the third set, however, the Rams came alive to win 25-16. CSU hit .360 for the set, its highest for the match and held Nebraska to .062.
â€œWe had to play with heart. We went into that locker room knowing that we were not playing CSU volleyball and werenâ€™t playing our game, and we needed to,â€ senior opposite hitter Kaetlyn Steffan said. â€œWe needed to come out and play with heart and play with passion.â€
The Rams went on to win the fourth and fifth sets, after which students rushed the floor chanting â€œCSU, CSU, CSU.â€
â€œThis was a tale of two teams getting disrupted. After the second game our message to the players was â€˜try to go out and see the game a little better.â€™ We came out in the third game, put more serving pressure on them, and we blocked them,â€ Hilbert said. â€œSo now theyâ€™re not as comfortable, and weâ€™re getting more comfortable and before you know it the crowdâ€™s into it, Nebraskaâ€™s feeling some pressure and we come back and win.
The Rams avoided an emotional letdown the next night against Albany, defeating the Great Danes 3-0 in a convincing sweep. CSU held Albany to a .190 hitting percentage for the match while totaling 12 blocks.
â€œOne of our main keys was to treat this match with a lot of respect,â€ Hilbert said.
CSU took the first two sets 25-20 and 25-15 before the Danes pushed them over the 25 point limit in the third set due to volleyballâ€™s win by two rule, though the Rams prevailed 27-25.
Hilbert rested Steffan and other starters throughout the third set due to the fatigue of playing Nebraska the night before and to give younger players some experience.
â€œI really am glad we had some reserves in the game to win it at the end. I think thatâ€™s really important,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™re going through a growing pains thing, figuring out whoâ€™s going to have what role.â€
After three strong matches, junior middle blocker Megan Plourde won the Mountain West Player of the Week. She totaled 18 kills and 12 blocks for the week while leading CSU to a 2-1 record over three teams that all played in the NCAA Tournament last season.
This is the second time Plourde has been named the conference player of the week, with the last coming Sep. 27, 2010.
Volleyball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Player of the week
Who: Megan Plourde
What: MW Player of the Week
Hitting Percentage: .295