On the CSU volleyball teamâ€™s senior night, its lone senior shone brightest.
Katelyn Steffan fired home a match-high 14 kills in her last game in Moby Arena to lead the Rams to a 3-0 win over the University of Wyoming.
â€œI kept telling myself I wasnâ€™t going to cry, and I think I bawled. I had my ugly crying face on too,â€ Steffan said. â€œIt was hard to wipe the tears away and get going at first, but we were in system a lot and that helped get the jitters out.â€
She blasted the final two kills to end the match in the third set, ending a furious Wyoming rally trying to extend the match to a fourth set.
CSU won the first two sets in the teamsâ€™ first matchup of the season, but lost three straight sets and the match after that.
â€œI went into the locker room between (sets) two and three, and I didnâ€™t say anything,â€ CSU coach Tom Hilbert said. â€œThe fact is you just have to go out and execute, and thatâ€™s what we did.â€
The Rams started the match strong, building an early 13-3 lead in the first set on a 9-0 run powered by the serving of freshman defensive specialist Carlie Foust. Foust collected three aces during the stretch and helped set the tone for the match, in which CSU had 11 aces.
â€œThe bigger run that I get, the more comfortable I get,â€ she said.
Service pressure and blocking helped carry CSU, because the Rams only hit .221 for the match and had 21 attacking errors.
â€œWe were very high error hitting today, kind of weird,â€ Hilbert said. â€œMost of our errors were deep. They were aggressive errors, but I can live with those.â€
Even though their offense wasnâ€™t firing on all cylinders, the Ramsâ€™ defense proved to be the difference in the match, producing eight total team blocks and 44 digs to Wyomingâ€™s 19.
â€œI thought we blocked the ball very well today. We only had eight blocks, but we did a great job blocking because it fouled them up,â€ Hilbert said. â€œIf you look at the difference in digs itâ€™s monumental.â€
Nearly 3,400 fans attended the match, the second highest figure of the season only to the teamâ€™s opening night victory over Nebraska.
â€œI think that there were a lot of distractions for us,â€ Wyoming coach Carrie Yerty said. â€œCSU was certainly awaiting our arrival.â€
The win, in addition to avenging CSUâ€™s only conference loss of the season, clinched at least a share of the Ramsâ€™ third consecutive regular season Mountain West title. In past years this would have clinched a birth in the NCAA tournament, but the conference is hosting a tournament this year, and the Rams need to win the tournament for an automatic bid.
Before the tournament, however, the Rams travel to the University of New Mexico and Texas Christian University to close out the regular season.
â€œItâ€™s a tough road trip, but weâ€™ve had tough road trips earlier in the year,â€ Steffan said. â€œWe have to get in the mindset that we have to play on the road for a few weekends.â€
Volleyball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at email@example.com.
Rams win with defense
Opponent hitting percentage: -.024