With 12 straight NCAA tournament appearances and a pre-season ranking of 30th in the nation, the CSU Rams volleyball team has a lot to live up to this year.
With the program’s tradition on the line, both the players and the head coach are feeling a sense of urgency to continue their success.
But sophomore libero Katelin Batten says the team doesn’t dwell on the pressure.
“There is pressure to carry on that tradition, but we’re mainly just trying to get better everyday,” Batten said.
After losing their first three matches at the Asics Challenge in Hawaii, the Rams play their home opener tonight against the 13th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Head Coach Tom Hilbert remains confident about the state of the team going into tonight’s match.
“There are some things that we definitely have to work on, but we can’t be fixated on the 0-3 number,” Hilbert said. “I was very pleased with how we played the Hawaiian match.”
Batten was confident that the team learned from their experience at the tournament.
“We learned that we didn’t compete very well in tight situations,” she said. “We competed a lot better in the close game against Hawaii.”
Although disappointed with the outcome of the tournament, the Rams still have high hopes for the season. Batten thinks anything is possible.
“With this core group of people, I think we can go far in the NCAA tournament,” she said. “The Sweet 16 isn’t out of the question.”
The Rams’ primary goals are to win the Mountain West Conference Championship and go deep in to the NCAA tournament. CSU is also looking forward to rivalry games with CU, Brigham Young and Utah.
“I always look forward to the BYU game,” senior right side hitter Tonya Mokelki said. “It’s definitely one of the highlights of my year.”
The Rams will be playing with seven freshmen and seven experienced players on the court this season. Batten doesn’t consider this to be a problem.
“The freshmen have come in and really had an impact on our team,” Batten said. “We’re getting a lot of good competition. They’re competing with us and playing just as well as us.”
CSU will begin their regular season schedule on Sept. 12 when they host TCU.
The Rams hope to continue the legacy of being one of the top volleyball programs in the country. Hilbert is happy to help the team carry a burden to succeed.
“I really believe that we should be good,” Hilbert said. “We should be a top-25 team in the country when it’s all said and done. I feel pressure everyday to get us to that point.”
Volleyball beat reporter Brandon Owens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.