Nov 282004
Authors: Stephanie Lindberg

In a battle of the co-regular season champions, CSU (26-3) disposed of Utah (23-5) in three quick games (30-18, 30-16, 30-18) to become Mountain West Conference tournament champions for the second straight year.

For the first time in MWC history, the host team won the tournament.

CSU will now play in its 10th straight NCAA tournament, beginning on Thursday at 7 p.m. against Purdue. Moby Arena will also host the Hawaii-Colorado first round game at 5 p.m. on Thursday. The winners of each game will face of at 7 p.m. on Friday at Moby. Student tickets are $6 and go on sale today at the CSU Ticket Office.

Senior setter Melissa Courtney was named the tournament's most valuable player, recording five kills without an error, three service aces and 37 assists in the championship match.

Junior outside hitter Tess Rogers led all players with 14 kills. Senior middle blocker Katie Jo Shirley-Cahoon and junior right-side hitter Dre Downs both had nine kills for the Rams. Sophomore libero Kristen Karlik led all players with 15 digs. As a team, the offense hit .381 to Utah's .099.

"This is one of the most complete matches we've played since I've been a coach here," said head coach Tom Hilbert in a press release. "I'm incredibly proud of this team. Everybody had outstanding games. We had great serving and passing, great blocking and outstanding hitting."

Going into the Nov. 20 match, Utah head coach Beth Launiere had noted the Utes' blocking was a step backward, and it certainly seemed to be so. They scraped by UNLV on Friday in a five-game match to advance to the finals, but they only managed one solid block against CSU.

Junior outside hitter Danielle Leichliter led the Utes with 11 kills. Sophomore libero Connie Dangerfield had 12 digs and senior setter Tracy Neumeier had 20 assists.

To finish off the regular season, the Rams played host to Idaho (17-12) on Senior Night Nov. 24 and honored seniors Melissa Courtney, Kimi Foytich, Bri Frech, Becky Sarauer and Shirley-Cahoon.

The Rams defeated the Vandals in three games (30-20, 30-19, 30-19) before a crowd of 1,511.

Three Rams hit double figures in kills and Rogers led all players with 17. Shirley-Cahoon led all players with a .685 hitting percentage and Courtney handed out 49 assists. The hitting helped the Rams escape an otherwise dangerous 10 service errors.

"We played them pretty well tonight," Hilbert said. "Our whole goal was to serve away from the libero and I felt like we needed to do a good job on their outside hitters and we did that. Our outside hitters were great tonight."

The Vandals were led by senior middle blocker Sarah Meek with 11 kills. Senior setter Mandy Becker, a Fort Collins native, had 25 assists, but the eight CSU blocks held the Vandals at bay. The Vandals hit .082 as a team with four blocks. Becker broke the Idaho record for number of career digs on the night.

"We basically got out-hit, out-blocked and out-dug," said head coach Debbie Buchanan in a press release. "We didn't play up to our level. We really haven't gotten back to our level the past few matches and it's unfortunate."




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