It was fitting the CSU volleyball team hosted its NCAA Tournament Selection Show watch party at the Beach House Grill in Old Town, considering that the Rams will play their first match in Hawaii.
CSU will open its 17th consecutive NCAA tournament against the University of Oregon Dec. 1 at the University of Hawaiiâ€™s Stan Sheriff Center, which seats 10,300 people.
The University of Northern Colorado will play Hawaii in the siteâ€™s other match.
â€œWhen it popped up there (on the TV screen) I was thinking to myself, â€˜weâ€™re hosting thatâ€™ because they put us and Northern Colorado together,â€ coach Tom Hilbert said. â€œBut the good news is weâ€™re going to Hawaii.â€
The NCAA volleyball selection committee selects host sites when selecting the tournament field, unlike the menâ€™s basketball tournament, which is pre-determined. Generally, teams that are less than 90 miles apart are placed in the same regional to minimize travel expenses.
â€œI wish it were here, obviously,â€ Hilbert said. â€œI think they threw them a bone because they want them to make it into their own regional.â€
Because of the long flight for the first round of matches, the team will be leaving for Hawaii this Tuesday.
â€œYou guys better get your schoolwork done,â€ HIlbert told his players after the announcement.
Oregon finished sixth in the Pac-12 regular season standings, but are ranked in the top 15 heading into the Ducksâ€™ match against CSU.
â€œTheyâ€™re good, but theyâ€™re vulnerable,â€ Hilbert said. â€œTheyâ€™re a team that is certainly not untouchable, especially by us on a neutral court.â€
Sophomore Alaiana Burgsma ranks fourth in the Pac-12 at 4.44 kills per set and leads a potent Oregon attack that ranked second in the conference in kills per set.
â€œTheyâ€™re talented physically. Theyâ€™ve won some big matches this year,â€ Hilbert said. â€œBut theyâ€™re a team thatâ€™s had its ups and downs. Weâ€™re physically going to match up with them very well.â€
According to Hilbert, Oregon will be the most athletic team CSU has faced since defeating Nebraska earlier this season.
Should the Rams get past Oregon, they will likely face host Hawaii, the tournamentâ€™s 10th overall seed, ranked third in the AVCA coachâ€™s poll.
â€œOf all the top seeds, theyâ€™re the one thatâ€™s the most unpredictable of how good they are simply because they play in the Western Athletic Conference,â€ Hilbert said. â€œTheyâ€™re awfully good, but theyâ€™re not out of range of us.â€
If CSU beats Hawaii they will play the next round of matches in Hawaii as well because of being placed in the Honolulu regional.
Senior Katleyn Steffan is the only member of the team that has travelled to Hawaii, but did not play because it was her redshirt year.
â€œI think we need to get over the â€˜wow factorâ€™ and look at more of a business approach,â€ she said. â€œWe canâ€™t just go in there and be excited that weâ€™re going to Hawaii right now.â€
Volleyball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quick facts about the NCAA volleyball tournament
â€¢16 national seeds
â€¢1st and 2nd round games played on campus sights
â€¢Four regionals hosted in Honolulu, Minneapolis, Gainesville and Lexington
â€¢Final Four and National Championship game in San Antonio