Nearly a week removed from a surprising 3-1 loss to the University of Denver, the CSU volleyball team begins conference play Thursday night against Air Force.
The Rams were 14-1 against the Pioneers prior to that match, and carry an even loftier 34-1 all-time record against Air Force.
â€œThe best way to bounce back from taking a beating is to beat somebody,â€ coach Tom Hilbert said. â€œAir Force is getting better, and theyâ€™re a â€˜trapâ€™ team because itâ€™s hard to convince our team theyâ€™re going to be any good.â€
Prior to the match against Denver, Hilbert felt his team was ready for the start of the conference season, but now heâ€™s slightly uneasy.
â€œIâ€™m hoping thatâ€™s just a little blip. But we started playing really low kill percentages, and you can win with low kill percentages if you donâ€™t make any mistakes. But we made too many,â€ Hilbert said.
Air Force is 3-10 on the season, defeating rival Navy, Bryant University and the University of South Carolina Upstate. The Falcons rank last in the Mountain West in every single statistical category except for service aces, which they lead the conference at 1.5 per set.
â€œWe donâ€™t want to take them too lightly,â€ junior middle blocker Megan Plourde said.
Plourde and her fellow middle blocker Breion Paige have struggled in recent matches, Hilbert said, and he has been working in practice to help them be more effective.
â€œIâ€™m not sure if itâ€™s the setting, hitting or a combination of both,â€ Hilbert said. â€œBut we need them to be good because they provide a high kill rate that we canâ€™t get if we keep going to our outside hitters over and over again.â€
The middles have been practicing more with setter Deedra Foss to build chemistry with her â€œso she doesnâ€™t have to rely so much on the outside hitters,â€ Plourde said.
Senior Kaetlyn Steffan leads CSU with 319 total attacks and 3.77 kills per set, while her hitting percentage is .210. Plourde and Paige both have 141 total attacks, but hit .262 and .305 respectively.
Air Forceâ€™s most dangerous offensive weapon is Ayesha Hein. She leads the Falcons with 3.14 kills per set, a .343 hitting percentage and 28 total blocks.
DUâ€™s sophomore middle blocker Faimie Kingsley torched the Rams for 15 kills and six blocks in last Fridayâ€™s match, but Hilbert isnâ€™t willing to commit an entire game plan to stopping one player.
â€œI believe (sheâ€™s) a talented kid, and we still couldâ€™ve won that match. But weâ€™ve got to focus on things in general,â€ Hilbert said. â€œWeâ€™ve got to stop them from attacking balls if we can, and weâ€™ve got to be more efficient and effective.â€
Volleyball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.