How Sweet it is

Dec 112003
Authors: Stephanie Lindberg

It is called the Sweet 16 for a reason. It is a reward for a

good season and hard work, which the Rams volleyball team (30-4)

has accomplished this year.

“It’s all I can think about, I couldn’t sleep,” said right-side

hitter Dre Downs. “It’s a really good time to be a part of CSU


The No. 12 Rams will play the No. 3 University of Florida Gators

(33-1) tonight at 5:30 p.m. in Gainesville, Fla. A win means CSU

would play on ESPN Saturday at 5 p.m. in the Elite 8 of the NCAA

Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship Tournament versus the

winner of a Kansas State and Penn State game.

The Gators’ only loss came against No. 1 USC in the first match

of the season. Florida has faced some of the same opponents as the

Rams, going 5-0 against No. 6 Kansas State, BYU, No. 5 Stanford,

Florida A&M and No. 14 Minnesota. The Rams went 3-3 against

those same teams, losing to Kansas State, Stanford and


The Gators have swept every match since Aug. 23, when they lost

one game to Kansas State.

CSU looks to change that by playing good defense.

“We’ve got to play defense, a lot of our games we’ve won by

playing defense,” Downs said.

Easy points can be made by keeping serving and passing errors to

a minimum.

“Serving and passing is always important, especially going into

an away game,” said libero Lindsey Kerr, who looks to return to the

lineup after missing the last 10 matches due to surgery.

Because Florida is a low-error team, CSU coach Tom Hilbert is

hoping having Kerr back will minimize CSU’s errors.

“She’s a little rusty,” Hilbert said of Kerr. “But having

Lindsey rusty is better than having two players.”

The Rams are 1-1 against the Gators lifetime, defeating the

Gators in four games at Florida to start the 2000 season. Three

Florida seniors remain from the 2000 season while the CSU lineup

has changed completely.

“They are essentially better (than in 2000),” Hilbert said.

“They are all seniors. There’s no lack of talent on that team.

There’s a million people on that team that can hurt you.”

Florida is led by senior outside hitter Aury Cruz, junior setter

Lauren Moscovic and junior middle blocker Sherri Williams. Cruz is

arguably the most dangerous person on the team, hitting .319 with

4.43 kills per game and 3.30 digs per game. Moscovic is averaging

13.12 assists per game and Williams has a team-best .473 hitting

percentage. Sophomore Jane Collymore, a former star at Kent Denver

High School, is hitting .298 in 100 games this season for the

Gators with 3.59 kills per game.

“We have to play well and score some points when Cruz is in the

back row,” Hilbert said. “She’s going to get kills in the front


As a team, the Gators are hitting .348 with 16.59 kills, 2.10

service aces, 14.62 digs and 3.18 blocks per game. They have a

perfect record at home in Gainesville.

The American Volleyball Coaches Association named juniors

Melissa Courtney and Katie Jo Shirley to the All-Region West Team

on Dec. 10.

Shirley, after missing the first round of the NCAA Tournament

due to a shoulder injury, played against Maryland on Saturday and

is expected to play today. Shirley is hitting .417 on the season

and last week against Maryland had eight kills and only one


Courtney had 47 assists for the Rams against Maryland. With 83

more assists, she will be fourth on the CSU career list with 3,210.

She also has 53 service aces on the year and junior Bri Frech has


CSU is doing better in tournament play than it averaged during

the season. The Rams were hitting .271 with 16.62 kills per game,

12.57 digs and 1.92 aces. In first round play, the team hit .364

with 18.67 kills, 13.5 digs and 2.67 aces. When hitting over .300

in a game, the Rams are 12-0 on the year.

Compared to the other three teams playing in Florida, CSU only

leads in the kills category. Florida leads in hitting percentage,

lowest opponent hitting percentage and aces per game. Penn State

has better averages in digs and blocks.

Penn State (30-4) and Kansas State (30-4) will face each other

Friday afternoon. Penn State has played Colorado, BYU and

Minnesota, going 2-2. CSU is 3-1 against those teams. Kansas State

defeated CSU earlier this year in Kansas. CSU is 0-3 lifetime

against Penn State and 5-3 versus Kansas State.

But in order to play either Penn State or Kansas State, the Rams

must win against the host.

“We’ve got to beat Florida,” Hilbert said. “That will help our

confidence. They think they’re here because they work hard. They

always feel like they have something to prove.”

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