History is in the Rams favor as they travel to Utah this weekend to take on BYU and Utah. The last three times CSU has made the Utah road trip, the Rams have come out with a sweep of both teams.
The Rams, 14-6 overall and 7-4 in the Mountain West Conference are in jeopardy of not making it into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 years. This weekend's road games are crucial in making a bid for the tournament.
"We have nothing to lose," senior middle blocker Dre Downs said. "We're trying to get better each game so we can prepare to win the conference tournament."
Winning the conference tournament might be the only way that the Rams can make it into the NCAA Tournament, as conference leader BYU ranks No. 16 in the nation. If BYU did not win the tournament, they would likely garner the only at large selection from the MWC.
"Right now my team is playing with a lot of maturity," head coach Tom Hilbert said. "I think that we can play at a lot higher level this time when we play BYU."
The Rams and Cougars met last time in early October, when BYU got by the Rams in three games. The Rams were very close in that match, as the first two games each went to 32-30.
The Cougars are coming off their only conference loss of the season as Utah defeated them in three games.
Sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Goodman leads BYU in kills with 4.18, while sophomore right side hitter Erica Lott is right behind her with 3.97 kills per game. The two Cougars rank one and two respectively in the MWC in kills. Senior setter Lauren Evans leads the MWC in assists with 13.04 and is first on the team with 0.41 aces per game.
Saturday night the Rams travel to Salt Lake to take on Utah. The Utes are currently on a 6-game winning streak since losing to the Rams in five sets a month ago. The Utes are led by senior outside hitter Shelly Sommerfeldt; she is averaging 3.39 kills per game this year. Sophomore middle blocker Emillie Toone averages a team best 1.46 blocks, while senior libero Danielle Leichliter leads the team with 3.22 digs a game.
"I think that we are prepared for this trip," senior outside hitter Casey Bauer.
Every year for the past three years the Rams have swept the Utah road trip, but Downs has also garnered the MWC Player of the Week each time she has been out there.
"I feel comfortable out there," Downs said. "I've played against these girls my whole life, and it's a lot of fun playing against people you know. It also helps to know my team is behind me and has confidence in me."
The Rams look to ascend the conference ladder as the match is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. tonight and can be seen on BYU-TV for people who have satellite or digital cable. Saturday's match against Utah will start at 7 p.m. Both matches can be heard on the radio by tuning into KCSU.