An exciting season of ups and downs came to an end Saturday night for the CSU volleyball team as they were handed a decisive loss by the No. 3 ranked Washington Huskies.
The Rams, after beating the Colorado Buffaloes in the NCAA Tournament First Round, were overmatched in the second round where the Huskies dominated the match and rarely trailed.
The Rams' best chance at an upset came in game two when they had managed to climb to a 24-22 lead late in the game. The Huskies responded with a six-point run that put the game, and ultimately the match, out of reach.
"Game two was definitely the difference," said Washington head coach Jim McLaughlin. "That is when we took control and got into a rhythm."
As a team the Huskies hit .455 in the match, posting 56 kills and only 10 errors on the night. The Rams' seniors, playing in what would be the final game of their career, tried to carry their team against the Huskies, who returned five starters from their Final Four team a year before, but couldn't manage to pull out the Cinderella-story comeback.
"They have very few weaknesses on that team," said CSU head coach Tom Hilbert. "They pass and block the ball very well, and we did little to mess that up."
The Rams blocking wasn't there when they needed it be and were outblocked on the night four to 11.5.
"They came out and competed, and that's what good teams do," said senior Tess Rogers after the match.
The Huskies also did a good job targeting senior Dre Downs who had a career game in the first round of the tournament. Only one night after a 29-kill performance, Downs was held to only eight kills on 25 swings.
The loss came after an impressive CSU win over CU Friday night. Downs's 29 kills were a career high and is the second most kills recorded in an NCAA Tournament game in school history.
"I'm very proud of our players tonight," said Hilbert after their first round victory. "They composed themselves and pulled it together."
Sophomore Tonya Mokelki also played well for the Rams Friday, recording 12 kills and hitting .471 on the night. Senior Casey Bauer led the team in digs with 12, while freshman setter Ashley Fornstrom had 62 assists on the night.
The volleyball program will say goodbye to their senior core of Bauer, Downs and Rogers. While in losing those three, the Rams forfeit priceless experience and leadership, the team will not be without talent next season.
Fornstrom and fellow classmate Jaime Strauss made contributions this year as true freshmen. Tonya Mokelki and Katherine Whitney both saw lots of playing time this year as well and should have no problem taking on leadership roles next season.