Wyoming Preview

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Sep 282006
 
Authors: JEFF DILLON The Rocky Mountain Collegian

CSU and Wyoming have one of the country’s fiercest college sports rivalries. Competition against each other in every sport is almost always fiery and meaningful.

Maybe someone should let Wyoming volleyball know.

Despite what Rams volleyball assistant coach Karrie Larsen said are “always tough” matches, CSU has found a way to win the last 16 times against its border rival. It leads the all-time series 41-18.

That said, don’t expect the Rams to be overconfident as the team heads to Laramie to face the Cowboys at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“It doesn’t matter how many times you beat them, it’s always an important match,” Larsen said. “CSU and Wyoming is always a big deal.”

CSU (7-6, 2-2) is coming off of two conference wins last weekend against New Mexico and TCU. The Rams played fairly impressively all weekend, never surrendering a game against either team to climb up to fourth in the Mountain West standings.

Wyoming (7-5, 1-1) is off to one of its best starts in recent history and currently sits right below the Rams in the conference standings. Its last match was a 3-2 defeat at Denver on Sept. 19. The team has not played at home since Sept. 2, when it defeated New Orleans in five games.

The Cowboys have not had a winning season in Mountain West play since the league’s beginning in 1999. But it has gotten off to a fast start thanks, in part, to the play of junior outside hitter Rachel Smith, who is third in the conference in kills with 4.2 per game. Another youngster, freshman Annie Meyers, is averaging 3.7 kills and 2.94 digs a game.

If Wyoming has ever had a great chance to break the Rams’ winning streak, this might be it.

“You have to take every year as a new year,” said junior middle blocker Amanda Fahnestock, whose home state is Wyoming. “We have to play well, stay competitive and know it’s going to be a tough match.”

The comforting news for CSU is that they seem to be coming together as a team. After a tough stretch in the schedule, where the Rams lost to four ranked teams on the road, they have looked more and more like the team predicted to finish third in the conference this year.

Last weekend, the Rams had a combined hitting percentage of .273 and averaged over 17 kills a game against New Mexico and TCU. The team was especially impressive against TCU, recording only 13 errors. It was also the first time the Rams had more serving aces than serving errors this season.

Larsen said she thinks the team is starting to feel a bit more comfortable in several areas.

“I think they’re figuring out each other and also their strengths and weaknesses as a team,” she said. “Our strengths are that we are consistent and an extremely good passing team. One of our weaknesses, though, is that we are young and we sometimes lose focus.”

If the Rams want to extend their winning streak over Wyoming to 17, they will need that focus to improve. Sophomore setter Ashley Fornstrom said it’s something the players need to have with them the rest of the season.

“Every game from here out is a must-win for us if we want to get back to the NCAA tournament,” she said. “It’s important for us not to take this match for granted. If we do, they can beat us.”

Staff writer Jeff Dillon can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

Notes:

? Sophomore middle blocker Mekana Barnes, who has been sidelined for most of the Rams’ last three matches with an ankle injury, saw limited time in practice this week and will be a game-time decision by Head Coach Tom Hilbert.

? Hilbert is just two wins shy of 250 at CSU. He is 248-60 in his career with the Rams.

? Sunday’s match against Wyoming will be broadcasted on tape delay by The Mtn. at 7 p.m. Oct. 3.

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