November 22. It was 7 a.m. as I was stepping on the plane to Las Vegas. That day also happened to coincidentally be the anniversary of my 21st year on this planet.Naturally, one would assume that I was going out to Vegas to partake in celebration of my newfound ability of legal intoxication. And here’s the part where I tell you that you’re wrong.
You might guess that I went out to see what was one of the best college basketball games of the young season, as Kansas upset defending national champion Florida in overtime. Once again, I would tell you that you’re wrong. You would guess that it was just a Thanksgiving break vacation, to get away from the university and just relax away from home. Wrong again.
I was in Las Vegas for what was probably one of the most exciting sporting events I’ve ever witnessed in my 21 years on this planet. You may ask, “What would this magical sports nirvana be?” And my answer may surprise you.
I was out in Vegas watching college volleyball, and it was amazing. I mean what I just said, and no, I’m not going to take it back.
As the play-by-play voice for the CSU volleyball team, I was invited to go along with the team to the Mountain West Conference tournament. This eight-team tournament saw everything that makes sports great. It saw big upsets, come-from-behind victories, and a scrappy team who most analysts thought didn’t belong on the winner’s pedestal, hoisting the trophy when it was all said and done. And that team was the CSU Rams.
After a four-game victory over TCU in the first round, CSU was expected to take on the Brigham Young Cougars in the semifinal round. San Diego State had other ideas though, and took down the Cougars in a thrilling five-game victory, sending shockwaves throughout the Mountain West Conference.
You might say fate stepped in here, because instead of facing BYU, a team who bested the Rams twice during the conference season, the Rams would now face a SDSU team who they swept during the regular season.
The Rams would make quick work of San Diego State, winning the match in a three game sweep. Meanwhile, Utah had run through their side of the bracket, setting up a showdown between the two of the top three teams in the conference.
Nobody had expected CSU to be here – it was supposed to be BYU and Utah in another rendition of the Holy War, but here they were all smiles and ready to try their best David impression, against the Goliath that was the Utah Utes.
It didn’t start well for the Rams, falling quickly into a two games to none hole, and down by nine in the third game. And then something happened, something that makes this sport great. The light came on for the Rams, the offense came alive, prompting the defense to do the same, and after falling to a 20-11 deficit, the Rams rallied back to a 30-30 tie, taking game three into extra points, where the Rams would eventually prevail 24-32.
After that, it was CSU that looked like the nine-ranked team in the nation and the Utes who didn’t belong. The Rams took game four by a count of 30-20, never looking back after winning game three. The Rams won game four and forced a decisive game five. The Rams took control of the game, and Utah could do nothing but watch as the Rams overpowered them and earned the NCAA berth that comes with the MWC tournament title.
For those who were in attendance, think back to the CSU vs. Utah football game last year, when the Rams won on a last second goal line stand. Now imagine watching CSU come back from a 28-point deficit at halftime, take the lead in the third quarter and stave off the Utes as they did last year in that memorable football game. That is the equivalent of what took place on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it better.
Yeah, I turned 21, and yeah, I was in Las Vegas, but watching CSU’s volleyball team provide me with one of the most memorable sporting events in my lifetime was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever been involved with.
With a victory in the Mountain West Conference tournament the Rams earned a trip to the NCAA tournament. And it just so happens that the Rams will be playing tonight in Boulder. They take on the defending national champion Washington Huskies at 5 p.m. So I would encourage everyone who calls himself or herself a Ram in Fort Collins to venture down south. Forget about homework. The books will be there after the match, so will the TV shows – tape them if you have to. The alcohol will be there after the match too, trust me. After all, I am finally legal.