For the past decade, Tom Hilbert has played a big role in making the volleyball program top among sports on campus. Now, going into his 17th year of coaching, he is planning to take his team even higher.
“I would like to take them all the way to the Final Four,” Hilbert said. “A lot has to happen, but it is definitely within our grasp. We need to go beyond being just a mid-major program to being one of the best in the country.”
Since coming to CSU in 1997, Hilbert has coached the volleyball team to a berth in the NCAA tournament 12 straight years, a school record. He has also amassed six conference titles and a .803 winning percentage since arriving from Idaho.
The Oklahoma native is impressed with what he has achieved while at CSU, but describes himself as a caretaker of the team more than anything else.
“I am proud of what this volleyball program has been able to do,” Hilbert said. “It was good before I got here, and hopefully it will be good when I leave. I think that this program is arguably one of the most successful in the history of the school and to be part (of) that is pretty special.”
Junior outside hitter Jamie Strauss said that much of Hilbert’s record of achievement has come from the players he goes after.
Hilbert has coached five All-Americans, 10 Conference Player of the Year award-winners and 41 all-conference selections.
“He knows what type of players to recruit, competitive ones that want to win,” Strauss said. “I think that his desire to win rubs off on us a lot and we are willing to work hard for him.”
Hilbert’s squad this year is loaded with talent once again, with junior middle-blocker Mekana Barnes and junior setter Ashley Fornstrom receiving preseason All-Mountain West recognition on the Ram team picked to finish second in the conference behind BYU.
Joanna Riley, CSU’s assistant media relations director, has great appreciation for the job Hilbert has done, and said he is one of the best coaches she has ever worked with.
“He has had success because his standards are so high, and he makes sure the girls meet those standards,” she said.
Hilbert stays humble in the face of personal glory, crediting a large part of his success to his surroundings.
“It isn’t just me, it is the whole culture,” he said. “We have a great community that is supportive, and it’s the fact that this program has been good since 1984. I am certainly not some savior who came in and created this.”
With success comes questions of Hilbert moving on to bigger and better things, but Riley doesn’t see him going anywhere for a while.
“He is vested in this program,” Riley said. “He likes Fort Collins and gets support here. In my estimation, he will stay here for a long time.”
Volleyball beat reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By the Numbers
435- Wins Hilbert has accumulated during his collegiate coaching career
10- Years of consecutive NCAA appearances for CSU under Hilbert
5- All-Americans coached by Hilbert
3- Mountain West Tournament titles in the last four years
2- Rams named to this year’s preseason All-Conference team, juniors Mekana Barnes and Ashley Fornstrom
.862- Winning percentage against MWC foes
.762- Overall winning percentage, 10th among active Division I coaches