Oct 252006
 
Authors: Jeff Dillon

As rivalries go, CSU and Wyoming in volleyball hasn’t exactly been a barnburner lately.

When the two teams meet today at 7 p.m. in Moby Arena, the Rams will bring a 17-match winning streak against the Cowgirls.

CSU (14-6, 8-2) has its sights set on a conference title. After losing to current Mountain West leaders Utah and Brigham Young, the Rams have rattled off nine straight wins, with eight against conference opponents.

On the other hand, there’s Wyoming (8-11, 2-6). The Cowgirls are hoping to turn around a six-match losing streak.

CSU extended its unbeaten stretch to nine matches after a pair of road victories against Texas Christian and New Mexico over the weekend. It was another good outing for the Rams’ outside hitters, who helped the team dominate offensively.

Sophomore Jaime Strauss tied her career high in kills, with 19 against TCU. Senior Katherine Whitney had 18 against TCU and 15 against New Mexico, while junior Tonya Mokelki got her 500th career kill against the Lobos.

Rams Head Coach Tom Hilbert was impressed with his team’s performance on the recent road trip.

“We showed a lot of really good competitive moments,” he said. “Especially losing the first game to TCU and the way we bounced back was great. It’s always uncomfortable on the road and our players did a really good job.”

Considering the state of each team, it would be easy to expect that Wyoming will be quick work for the Rams. But neither Hilbert nor his players are taking the Cowgirls lightly, especially due to the fact that they are desperately in need of a win.

“They have the same philosophy as we do as far as wanting to make it tough for you to beat them,” Hilbert said. “You better come to play with Wyoming.”

Earlier this season, the Rams traveled to Laramie to face the Cowgirls for the first time. CSU won the match in four games, as sophomore setter Ashley Fornstrom posted her first career triple-double with 53 assists, 14 digs and 11 blocks.

Fornstrom said the team was able to get Wyoming out of sync in that match, but they aren’t expecting the same thing this time around.

“Wyoming always plays well against us,” Fornstrom said. “We have to focus on what we do, not what they’re doing.”

Wyoming will need a big performance from their outside hitters to keep the improving CSU offense from defeating them a second time.

Junior Rachel Smith, who currently ranks fourth in the conference with 3.81 kills per game, as well as senior Andrea Seele, who leads the team in hitting percentage at .241, will each have to step up for Wyoming to upset the Rams.

That upset is exactly what the Rams need to avoid. Following this match and one with Air Force next week, the team will face three of the top four teams in the conference in the final two weeks of the season. That includes BYU and Utah, matches that could determine the conference champion.

In other words, this would be a bad time to make this match-up a rivalry once again.

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

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