All the CSU volleyball team needs to do to make history is win three games this week. Never before has the host team won the Mountain West Conference tournament, but starting Thursday the Rams hope for that to change.
"It's very important (to win the tournament)," said junior right-side hitter Dre Downs. "We want to make history."
It won't be an easy task. Several teams could easily spoil the Rams' quest for a third- straight tournament win. Utah has beat the Rams at home and BYU took the Rams to five games in a match on Friday. UNLV could also make a bid.
"Everyone can come into this tournament and play," said junior outside hitter Tess Rogers. "You saw that last week with BYU. This could be the end of the season for them and they don't want it to be."
CSU head coach Tom Hilbert said it would be a tough tournament to win.
"In the top three teams there is motivation, preparation and memory of what happened the last time," Hilbert said. "That's going to make it interesting."
The second-seed Rams will take on seventh-seed New Mexico in the first round of the tournament. The Rams dominated the Lobos this season, first at Moby Arena on Sept. 25 when they beat them in three games. Then CSU knocked them off in three games again on Oct. 22 in Albuquerque.
The game will start tonight at 7 p.m. at Moby Arena. Student tickets are $4.
No. 1 Utah (21-4, 13-1): streaks: 12 wins, two losses
Defense is the key to the No. 19 Utes and only one player, senior middle blocker Lyndsey Henderson, with a hitting percentage over .300. Henderson also leads the team in blocks (1.79 per game). Young players have blossomed like sophomore libero Connie Dangerfield with 4.29 digs per game and sophomore blocker Amie Toone has emerged as a quality blocker with 1.29 per game.
No. 2 CSU (22-3, 13-1): streaks: 13 wins, one loss
The No. 8 Rams' lone conference loss was to Utah. They are second in the conference in hitting (.275), first in kills (17.15) and assists (15.82). The key to the Rams success has been the combination of senior setter Melissa Courtney and the hitting squad. Rogers hits 3.89 kills per game, senior middle blocker Katie Jo Shirley-Cahoon is hitting .388, Downs is hitting .333 and the rest of the lineup can step in at any time. Defensively they have been solid, ranking third in blocks and digs.
No. 3 BYU (17-10, 9-5): streaks: two of five wins, four losses
BYU started the season 5-4 and have conference losses against Utah, CSU and Wyoming. Four hitters are over .300 and freshman outside hitter Erica Lott leads the team with 3.33 kills per game. Sophomore Lindsy Hartsock leads the team with a .392 hitting percentage and 1.88 blocks per game. They lead the MWC in hitting percentage (.379) and blocks (3.35).
No. 4 UNLV (14-11, 8-6): streaks: four wins, four losses
2003: tied 5th
UNLV is ranked third or fourth in every MWC category except for blocks, where they place seventh. UNLV was much improved this season, finishing with a winning record for the first time since 1999 under first year head coach Allison Keeley and behind just three returning starters. The young Rebels have also done well with freshman Maria Aladjova leads the team with 3.73 kills per game. Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Miramontes hits 3.17 kills and .83 blocks per game. Freshman setter Jada Walker digs a team best 4.21 per game.
No. 5 Wyoming (13-13, 6-8): streaks: four wins, two of three losses
First year head coach Pat Stangle helped the Cowgirls turn around after going 4-10 in conference play in 2003. The Cowgirls are 8-4 at home, where they beat BYU in October, but just 3-7 on the road. Freshman outside hitters Shelby Heggie (.306 hitting) and Rachel Smith (3.32 k/g) have been big forces on the court. Freshman blocker Lauren Scott leads Wyoming 1.19 blocks per game. Senior outside hitter Sara Maytorena has a team best 3.33 kills per game and setter Amy Doman averages 13.04 assists per game. The offense ranks third in the MWC.
No. 6 San Diego State (4-23, 4-10): streaks: two wins, 13 losses
The Aztecs started off by losing 13 matches before picking up a win against Wyoming on Oct. 1. Senior outside hitter Kara Moriarty, the only returning starter from 2003, leads the team in kills with 3.48 per game. Junior outside hitter Melissa Stapley is hitting 3.16 per game. Junior middle blocker Ashley Bowker leads the team in blocks with 1.33 per game.
No. 7 New Mexico (9-16, 3-11): Streaks: three wins, six losses
After starting the season 2-0, the Lobos had a few wins mixed into losing streaks of five and six matches. With just two seniors, the Lobos are another young team. Junior middle blocker Chelsea Sondrup is hitting a team best .244. Junior outside hitter Nicole Ryan is hitting 3.34 kills per game. Senior libero Adah Burke is digging 4.16 balls per game.
No. 8 Air Force Academy (4-20, 0-14): Streaks: three wins, 16 losses (current)
2003: tied 5th
The Falcons have not won a game since Sept. 23 and have a better road record (2-9) than at home (1-8). They rank last in the MWC in all but two categories and are only hitting .147 as a team. Seniors outside hitter Molly White and libero Jenalee Burke lead the team in hitting (.211) and digs (2.33 per game) respectively. Junior blocker Kristen Hamlett is converting 3.28 kills and .85 blocks per game while freshman blocker Brooke Akers has .76 blocks per game.