After the emotional loss to CU-Boulder in football Saturday, the CSU Rams volleyball team will try to make amends for lost pride tonight in their version of The Rocky Mountain Showdown.
“It’s definitely redemption time for the football game,” said senior right side hitter Tonya Mokelki. “It’s for bragging rights. It’s for the respect of your school. It’s competitive, it’s scrappy and it’s intense.”
CSU (2-3) has owned the Buffaloes (3-2) in recent history, winning eight out of the last nine matches, including seven in a row at home. However, the Rams don’t expect an easy match in the emotional battle with their rivals.
“There is no clear-cut favorite because when these two teams get together, they both play on a lot of emotion and anything can happen,” said head coach Tom Hilbert.
Both teams are coming off huge victories over high-ranked opponents. CSU knocked off then-No. 13 Ohio State on Thursday and CU upset previously-No. 11 California on Sunday.
The Rams will rely on their fans, hoping for an extra boost from the home court advantage. Senior middle blocker Amanda Fahnestock can’t wait for the matchup.
“Playing them at our home court is going to be an experience that I haven’t had here in the last few years,” she said. “We love the fans, especially when they paint their chest. We want to get them close to the court.”
Hilbert expects a big crowd to play a major factor.
“I expect us to have a pretty big crowd because people like to come out when we play the Buffs in anything,” he said. “That should help us and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The Buffaloes bring star middle blocker Lauren Schaefer, who leads the team in hitting percentage at .400 with 60 kills. Hilbert has done his best to prepare for the Buffs players and style of play all week.
“For every match, we try to create a scout team that looks at and plays like the other team does,” Hilbert said.
He also noted the importance of playing to CSU’s strengths.
“We’ve got to make it a battle of outside hitters. If it turns into an outside hitter battle, then I think we can win,” Hilbert said. “That means we’re going to have to serve tough. We’re going to have to get into long rallies. If we can do those two things, then we have a chance.”
Mokelki thinks this is just the kind of competition the Rams need.
“They’re usually a pretty good defensive team,” she said. “They’re pretty scrappy. That’s something that we need – someone that will keep digging us and make us better.”
Volleyball beat reporter Brandon Owens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.