New team, one dream.
That’s the motto for the 2002 Ram volleyball team. And it certainly is a new team.
With just two starters returning this year, head coach Tom Hilbert is looking to his five true freshmen and redshirt freshman Andreya Downs for strength and maturity to ensure his team achieves that dream.
“This year we are looking at the Mountain West and NCAA tournaments,” said Downs, the Rams’ outside hitter.
CSU has made the NCAA tournament in each of the last seven years and the performance of the freshmen will largely determine whether or not the Rams will be invited to their eighth in a row this year.
There is definitely promise among these young athletes, but the promise comes at a price. The price being that there is only one senior player on the team, Michelle Knox, captain for the Rams. The question is whether the players can learn all they need to when usually they would have several veterans on the team.
“I think Michelle is doing an awesome job, I’m learning a lot from her,” freshman outside hitter Tess Rogers said.
One thing the freshmen are learning individually is teamwork. By spending time together off the court, they are forming a bond that will help them in the years to come.
“We’re really close, we try to all go to dinner at the same time,” Rogers said. “During the day it’s hard, because we’re all so busy but we try and spend a lot of time together.”
Another aspect of being a Ram volleyball player is getting involved in community activities and having a public face.
“We also do a lot of stuff with boosters, it really lets us get out and meet the members of the community,” Rogers said.
One of the advantages of having such a young team is that they will be playing with each other for a long time, giving them an edge over the competition in the years to come. The other freshmen playing this year are Melissa Dennett and Casey Bauer. The other two will redshirt this year; Gwen Davis so she can learn the CSU system, and Melva Johnson so she can recover from surgery.
These players will have a virtually unchanged team for the next three years and are looking forward to the challenge and possibilities.
“We are only focusing on this season but I’m really excited that we are going to have the same team for the next three years,” Downs said
-Edited by Jon Ackerman and Josh Hardin