The 23rd-ranked Rams volleyball team should get to play some younger players again this week when they head to Colorado Springs tonight to play a struggling Air Force Falcon program and then travel to Wyoming to play the Cowboys on Saturday.
The Falcons (7-13, 0-7) haven’t won a conference volleyball match in three years and have yet to win a single Mountain West game this year. CSU coach Tom Hilbert expects to take advantage of the situation and change up the lineup.
“Hopefully we will get to play some different people in some different positions,” he said.
CSU will focus on Air Force outside hitter Jasamine Pettie. Hilbert described her an athletic left-hander, and said that the Rams hadn’t seen a player like her much this year.
CSU setter Ashley Fornstrom stressed the importance of not looking past a bad team like Air Force.
“I think teams like Air Force and Wyoming can surprise you if you don’t prepare,” Fornstrom said. “You have to have the perspective that you can’t overlook them”
Hilbert said that he tries not to overlook poor teams by trying to improve his own.
“You focus on what you’re doing and focus on certain areas of your game,” he said. “You give your team things to do that have nothing to do with Air Force and everything to do with us.”
With five important road trips during the second half of the season, the Rams also have to learn how to win away from Moby Arena. Hilbert called that one of the major challenges left to overcome this year.
“We’ve only won one out of five games on the road,” he said. “We’ve only been on two road trips. That’s really kind of bizarre. We have to learn how to win on the road. That’s a big part of the challenge that faces us the second half of the season.”
Outside hitter Jaime Strauss and Fornstrom noted how much more difficult it is to play on the road.
“It’s definitely harder on the road,” Strauss said. “It’s hard to play at Air Force because there aren’t very many people there. It’s hard to play at Wyoming because the people are so close to you.”
“The fans that do show up are really supportive of their team,” Fornstrom said. “It’s a pretty tough environment no matter where you go on the road.”
The Rams enter tonight’s match having not played a conference foe in almost two weeks. Fornstrom was thankful for the extended practice time.
“It’s given us a chance to work on some things, she said. “We needed to get better for the next half of conference because we’re going to be away for so many games.”
Hilbert is just glad they’re playing Air Force.
“It’s given us some rest, but I’m glad we are not coming off this break playing someone big-time good,” he said. “We need to be back in the fold of playing good opponents and keeping ourselves sharp.”
Volleyball beat reporter Brandon Owens can be reached at email@example.com