Colorado State will not be able to boast another victory in the rivalry against CU.
The Rams volleyball team jumped out to an impressive early start, but couldn’t keep the intensity, giving into the Buffaloes in four games (30-17, 23-30, 27-30 and 26-30).
“Our team played very well in the first game,” said CSU head coach Tom Hilbert. “They were able to make some good lineup adjustments, and that disrupted our game when they came out and played better in games three and four. They blocked our outside hitters very effectively.”
The Rams came out firing in the first game, tallying 14 kills, five blocks and committing only nine total errors. They held the Buffaloes to a -.140 hitting percentage and only eight kills.
The performance quieted the home crowd at Coors Event Center.
“We talked a little about leadership during the break between games,” said CU head coach Pi’i Aiu. “Then we made some changes and worked on loosening up CSU’s blocking game.”
CU sucked the momentum out of the Rams in the second game, covering up spots on the outside that the Rams had taken advantage of in the first game.
The Rams responded poorly, committing 15 errors, five of which were service errors.
The Buffaloes gained confidence with solid performances from their middle blockers Meghan Barkman and Monique Gerlach. Barkman racked up six kills in the third game and added two blocks. Barkman and Gerlach also shut down CSU’s middle, holding Katie Jo Shirley and Michelle Knox to 11 kills in games two and three.
“I realized I hadn’t been playing well in the first game, so I started changing up my routes a little and I was able to get some shots down from it,” Gerlach said.
Service errors continued to plague the Rams over the course of the night.
They lost 14 points because of the mistakes in the combined four games, finishing with 20 to Colorado’s six.
“The service game is very disappointing because it’s something we should be able to control,” said Knox.
In the fourth game, the Buffs jumped out to a 23-12 lead, and the Rams seemed to let down a little. Hilbert called a timeout, and the Rams put together a 14-7 run, but falling short of pushing the match to a fifth game.
The Rams were able to out-hit the Buffs, putting up 58 kills and 12 blocks on the night. They out-hit the Buffs .167 to .116, which aren’t impressive numbers for either side.
“It’s not surprising they hit higher than us, especially when we finished the first game hitting negative,” Aiu said. “But you need to look at the hitting game by game, and after the first one, we improved.”
Tess Rogers led the Rams in kills with 15. Knox was not far behind with 14 kills, five blocks and a .414 hitting percentage.
Though the Rams struggled throughout much of the match, Hilbert was pleased with how they finished.
“If they could have done some of the things we did in the last game a little earlier, we might have had a chance to get another game on them and stay in the match,” Hilbert said.
The Buffs were very happy to get this win under their belt.
“The kids started believing all of the hype around the CSU-CU match and how important it is,” Aiu said. “But I think they finally began to look at it as just another volleyball game. The win is big because CSU is ranked, and beating ranked teams is how you get noticed.”
The all-time series between the two teams now stands at 16-11 in favor of the Rams.
CSU will now focus on another road trip. The Rams will travel to Arkansas to play in the Razorback Classic. Though the Rams need the road experience, a little break in all of the action would be appreciated.
“The last two weeks have not been incredibly productive as far as practice goes,” said Hilbert. “I think that next week will give us some time to get some better practices in.”
The Rams will face Louisville, Arkansas and Oral Roberts at the Classic.
None of the teams are ranked, but Hilbert expects his young team to be at the top of its game when the time comes.