In an emotional roller coaster of a weekend, the Rams showed their ability to handle adversity by bouncing back from a heartbreaking loss in five games on Friday to BYU to beat No. 16 Utah in four games on Saturday.
The Rams easily won their first game against BYU but seemed to lose their composure after some questionable calls in the second game. The referees outraged the 1,600 fans in Moby after reversing a call and taking a point away from the Rams to give to the Cougars.
“I have no comment on the officiating,” CSU head coach Tom Hilbert said. “What I will say is that (the referees) are two of the best in the country who frequently call the (NCAA) Final Four.”
The rest of the second game was a contest to see which team could give the other the most points from errors. The Rams won the contest but lost the game, disappointing the many parents of CSU students in attendance.
With the match tied at one game apiece, the Cougars came out of the break strong and had a .350 team attack average, compared to the Rams’ .237, to take the lead 2-1.
Realizing that they were about to lose a match that they should have won easily, the Rams picked up the pace. They used their hard-hitting style to out-kill the Cougars 18-14 and take the match to a winner-takes-all fifth game.
The final game evoked every kind of emotion. The agony of going down four points in a 15-point game, the excitement of tying the game at 12, the anticipation of another great comeback victory, then the harsh realization that it wasn’t going to happen.
“We lost our focus,” said Rams outside hitter Andreya Downs. “We need to take this experience and learn from it.”
That is exactly what they did. The atmosphere was electric before the game against Utah Saturday night, as the Rams prepared for their biggest home game of the regular season.
Revenge was on the Rams’ minds from their disappointing exit from the Mountain West Conference tournament last year courtesy of the Utes. The underdog Rams handed Utah their second conference loss in as many days and elation filled Moby Arena.
The Rams dominated the visiting Utes, slipping only momentarily in the third game. They came back to win by a nine-point margin in the fourth game, much to the enjoyment of all watching.
“This is a wonderful win tonight,” Hilbert said after the game.
Their coach’s feelings were reflected in the faces of the players when they won the final point of game four and realized their dreams of revenge.
“My last memory of Utah was being two games up and losing in five” senior middle blocker Michelle Knox said.
She wasn’t the only one with that memory.
“I just wanted to get revenge on them,” sophomore outside hitter Melissa Courtney said.
-Edited by Jon Ackerman and Josh Hardin