The brooms came out, and the CSU volleyball team regained the lead in the Mountain West Conference over the weekend with three-game victories over New Mexico and Air Force.
The Rams were successful with changes to their lineup and played consistently in both matches, thus adding the Lobos and the Falcons to their season sweep list. And UNLV helped the Rams out on Saturday when it upset San Diego State. CSU (10-2 in conference play) now has a half-game lead over the Aztecs and Utah, and controls its own destiny going into Utah next weekend.
The Rams played Friday’s match without starting libero Lindsey Kerr due to illness. Freshman Casey Bauer filled in for the first two games and sophomore Katie Jo Shirley anchored the defense in the third game.
“Without Lindsey Kerr, I thought Colorado State played really well,” New Mexico head coach Kelley Silva said. “She’s the glue of the team in a lot of aspects and I thought Katie Jo Shirley was very solid at the libero position.”
Kerr’s absence shook up the Rams’ passing game a little, but they were still able to slip past the Lobos in three games (30-26, 30-20, 30-26). The only time the Rams trailed in the match was when the Lobos jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second game.
“This was an interesting match,” CSU coach Tom Hilbert said. “We tried a lot of different things tonight and our players responded and stepped up.”
The first two games belonged to Tess Rogers. She had 15 of her match-high 18 kills in those games and hit .642. By the time she cooled off in the third game, the Rams had taken command of the match.
“I got a lot of good looks in the first two games, but I think I started to get to anxious under the sets later on,” Rogers said.
Anna Reines led the Lobos with 11 kills and libero Blaire Burns had 13 digs.
The Rams only managed three blocks on the night, a statistic that bothered the Rams, despite the win.
“We’re still in a bit of a learning process with the blocks,” Shirley said.
The learning process accelerated quickly. On Saturday night, the team put up 10 blocks on its way to a 30-23, 30-18, 30-22 win over the Falcons.
“Tom kind of gave us a cue before the match tonight and I think everyone made good blocking a priority,” Michelle Knox said.
Knox led the charge with 11 kills, and Shirley had six blocks and hit .333 on the night. Kerr was back in the lineup for the match and made her presence known with seven digs.
Once again the Rams controlled the scoreboard for the majority of the night. Air Force’s biggest lead was three points early in the third game. The Rams quickly overcame the deficit and went on to close out the match.
“Our main concern tonight was containing Lamecca Jefferson and Kristin Hamlett,” Hilbert said. “We did a nice job on them and Delavane Diaz wasn’t really a factor. Any time you keep them from making big plays, you’re going to do well against this team.”
Jefferson was the only Falcon in double figures with 11 kills. Diaz only managed two kills and hit -.214 for the match.
The Rams now look ahead to one of the nastiest road trips in the conference next week when they take on BYU and Utah. With the conference lead, the momentum appears to be clearly in their favor. n