Just 15 hours after losing a gut-wrenching match to Texas A&M on Friday night, CSU returned to Moby Arena to knock off Morgan State in three straight games. CSU rounded out the Hilton Classic on Saturday night, when the Missouri State Bears defeated the Rams in five games.
Despite fighting back from a two-game deficit to force a game five, CSU did not have enough in their tank to complete a comeback, falling 15-7 in the final frame of their match against Missouri State Saturday Night.
In the final game, MSU’s Erin O’Connor recorded seven kills on her way to earning All-Tournament honors. Joining O’Connor on the All-Tournament team was CSU sophomore Mekana Barnes. Barnes had 13 kills in the match against MSU, but she was not completely satisfied by her individual achievement.
“It’s nice,” said Barnes of her All-Tournament selection. “But that’s not where my focus is. I’m focused on how the team is doing.”
If Barnes is focused on team success, then she must have mixed feelings about the Rams’ performance. CSU dropped a pair of close games to open the match, 30-28 and 30-23.
“When we started this match, all the things I was bragging about, we weren’t doing,” stated Head Coach Tom Hilbert.
He continued to explain the difference in his team’s performance between games two and three.
“We asked the players to play with intent, to play some defense,” Hilbert said.
That defensive mindset sparked a comeback, as the Rams grabbed an early lead in game three and never looked back. CSU took the third game 30-21 before forcing a fifth and deciding game with a 30-23 win in game four. Hilbert was impressed with how his team played in games three and four.
“They responded well to coaching,” said Hilbert. “That says they’re good kids and great competitors.”
Surprisingly, Hilbert blamed himself for the game five loss.
“I’m going to take responsibility for game five. I didn’t listen to my gut feeling, and it cost us.” Hilbert explained that instead of going with the players he thought would win, he went with a lineup that statistically should have won, but didn’t.
Although Hilbert was obviously upset by the loss, he refused to dwell in disappointment for long. By the end of the press conference, he was voicing his belief that the team will improve.
“Our job as a coaching staff is to make them feel we’re going in the right direction,” said Hilbert. “We’re going to be better next week, and we’re going to keep on improving.”
Earlier on Saturday, the Rams took on the Morgan State Bears. After a dominating 9-0 start to the first game, the Rams achieved a mostly-comfortable victory in three games.
The Bears’ hitting percentage was just .064 in the match, while the Rams were able to hit .233. Sophomore outside hitter Jamie Struass, who had 10 kills, and freshman middle blocker Tessa Nelson, who had 11 kills, led an aggressive Rams squad.
-Sophomore outside hitter Jamie Strauss had a career high 22 digs in the match against Missouri State.
-Sophomore setter Ashley Fornstrom went down with a knee injury in the fifth game against Missouri State. There is no word on the extent of the injury
-The Rams (1-2) will next host the Coors Invitational this weekend at Moby Arena. They will face Wake Forest on Friday at 7:00 p.m. Saturday, they will face Florida Atlantic at noon and James Madison at 8:00 p.m.
Staff writer Jeff Dillon contributed to this report.
Hilton Classic All-Tournament Team
Christi Hahn (MVP) – Texas A&M
Sarah Ammerman – Texas A&M
Mary Batis – Texas A&M
Erin O’Connor – Missouri State
Katelyn Panzau – Missouri State
Mekana Barnes – Colorado State