The CSU volleyball team is looking forward to hushing its critics this season.
After the loss of seven letterwinners from last year, expectations for this team may be lower than in previous years. But with a talented freshmen class coming into Moby Arena, they look to sustain the dominance the Rams have established in the Mountain West Conference.
"This year's freshman class is very competent as players, they are all really skilled," head coach Tom Hilbert said.
This year the Rams bring in four freshmen – Ashley Fornstrom, Kelsey Hoff, Jaime Strauss and Tessa Nelson.
Ashley Fornstrom is from Cheyenne, Wyo. where she was the Southern Wyoming Athletic Conference Volleyball Player of the Year. She led her team to two conference titles in 2002 and 2003. She also was a two-time First Team All State selection.
Kelsey Hoff hails from Keenesburg, Colo. where in 2005 she earned the Wendy's High School Heisman Award after being named all-league each season during her four-year prep career. Hoff will be thrown straight into a starting role for the Rams, playing as the libero.
"I'm impressed with Kelsey so far," said Hilbert. "She's coming off a bit of an injury, but she has good instincts and is looking pretty good right now."
Jaime Strauss played right down the road at Windsor High School. Last year she led her team to a 14-1 record, and was named 2004 Class 4A State Player of the Year.
Tessa Nelson, who joins the team from Minnesota, comes to CSU as the first to play here from that state. Nelson won two state championships for her school, as well as being named conference MVP twice.
Three of these girls, Fornstrom, Hoff and Strauss, have played together for two years as a part of the NORCO 17-Black Club Volleyball team, which finished fifth at the Volleyball Festival in Reno and qualified for nationals.
"Those three local players, they've grown up watching this program and know what it's like to be a Ram," Hilbert said.
The Rams are slated to play No. 25-ranked opponent Pepperdine, along with Florida A&M, California State Northridge, UC Irvine, and New Mexico State this season – all of whom made the NCAA tournament last year.