With three top-seed teams safely into the second round, the Colorado State Rams and the Air Force Falcons took the floor to close out the first round of the Mountain West championship tournament.
That’s as dramatic as it got.
The Rams let the Falcons hang around for the first two stanzas of the first game before rattling off an 11-5 run to win the first game of the match.
The Rams would control the flow of the next two games and finish Air Force’s season with a 30-24, 30-19, 30-21 victory.
The win sends the Rams to the second round where they will get a tough match against BYU, with who they split their regular season matches.
“The Falcons threw us off with some lineup changes early in the first game, and I think they came out a little more sharp than we did,” CSU coach Tom Hilbert said. “But we recovered pretty quickly and Katie Jo (Shirley) took over after that from the blocking standpoint.”
Shirley had one of her best performances of the season, posting 10 kills and 10 block assists to earn her first career double-double. Fellow middle blocker Michelle Knox also had 10 kills and hit .500 on 16 swings. As a team the Rams put up 14 blocks in the match to tie BYU for the tournament best.
“We’ve been really working on our blocking for the last two weeks in practice and I think we applied what we’ve been practicing to the game tonight,” Shirley said.
The Rams were never behind by more than three points in the match and held the Falcons to a .040 hitting percentage.
Air Force got a team-high eight kills from middle blocker Tiffany Bishop and libero Jaime Beatty led the team with seven digs.
“I felt like we were well prepared going into this match,” Air Force coach Penny Lucas-White said. “We changed some things around to stop Tess (Rogers) and were pretty successful at it. Michelle and Katie Jo were just too much.”
Brigham Young earned its chance to redeem last Saturday’s loss against the Rams by sneaking by the UNLV Rebels in five games (26-30, 32-30, 33-31, 16-30, 15-11).
Lindsey Metcalf led the Cougars with 17 kills and Carrie Bowers had nine blocks in the victory.
In October, the Cougars beat CSU at Moby Arena in a five-game thriller. The Rams avenged the loss last weekend in Provo with a three-game win.
“It’s hard to play someone again a week later,” Hilbert said. “During (BYU’s) match earlier tonight we were saying that we’d like to play them because it will draw a bigger crowd and I think our team naturally gets fired up to play them.”
In the earlier matches Utah knocked off Wyoming 32-30, 30-20, 30-25 and San Diego State beat New Mexico 30-23, 30-23, 30-27. The Utes and the Aztecs will play at 4 p.m. today.