As the CSU volleyball team replaces six seniors from last year’s team, and faces what head coach Tom Hilbert calls his team’s toughest schedule since 2000, the year looks to be challenging.
However, the Rams stare this schedule right in the face with the battle cry, “New Team. One Dream.”
CSU earned its preseason ranking of No. 18 after finishing last season at No. 10, taking second place in the Mountain West Conference and reaching the NCAA Regional Semifinals, where they were beaten by No. 2 Nebraska. At this point in the preseason the Rams still have a lot of unanswered questions about their lineup.
“We may end up red-shirting some very talented people just to spread the roster out,” Hilbert said.
The Rams are picked to place second in the Mountain West Conference for the third year in a row. Utah is picked to place first and BYU third.
The players are looking forward to challenging these high expectations with a new set of freshmen learning the CSU system.
“I think it’s just a matter of getting everyone on the same page,” said sophomore outside hitter Becky Saurer.
Saurer is one of six players returning to the team with active experience from last season’s NCAA tournament. Also returning are senior Michelle Knox, junior Tiffany Dolven, and sophomores Katie Jo Shirley, Lindsey Kerr, and Melissa Courtney.
The Rams will face five teams that are currently ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 Poll, starting with No. 22 Kansas State at the University Park Holiday Inn Classic on Aug. 30 at Moby Arena. This season’s schedule also pits the Rams against No. 5 Long Beach State and No. 21 Colorado. When the conference schedule begins, the Rams will have two games apiece against No. 13 Utah and No. 23 BYU.
Hilbert and the players agree that overcoming the youth on the team will be the biggest challenge in having a successful season this year.
“We are taller and have a higher reach than we’ve had in recent years, but we’re definitely inexperienced and lack the court savvy that we’ve been used to with the last few teams,” Hilbert said.
The Rams have been on the practice court for over two weeks now and still have more than a week to prepare for the University Park Holiday Inn Classic, a tournament they have been consistently strong in with a 13-2 record in the last five seasons.