Sep 042008
 
Authors: Matthew Pucak

Tom Hilbert likes the CSU volleyball schedule this year, especially the way the difficulty increases each week.

The Rams started the season by sweeping a tournament at Moby Arena against three tough teams, but this week the competition takes a step up at the Asics Classic in Corvallis, Ore. as the Rams head on the road for the first time this season.

CSU will play three games in three days against Pepperdine, Oregon State and Pacific, teams that Hilbert feels this will be a very good challenge as he tries to learn about his own squad.

“Like last week’s tournament, this weekend will be a benchmark for us. These three teams are better than the three we played last weekend. They will all very tough and will make us earn everything,” Hilbert said.

Hilbert knows his team can compete this weekend, but the key will be improving their flaws that came to his attention last weekend.

“I expect that we can use our defense, as it should be good for us. Our block should frustrate these teams and make it difficult on them, but the question is will we serve and receive well enough to keep the pressure on them. If we don’t step up and attack better than last weekend, and just rely on the block, we will be in trouble,” Hilbert said.

The Rams know that it will be key perform well away from home this season, as last season CSU went a brilliant14-0 at home, but were just 9-8 away from the friendly confines of Moby Arena.

“We will be on the road for many big games this season, and it helps to get experience early in the season. We know that we have to perform will in every game we have, no matter where it is,” said senior middle blocker Mekana Barnes.

Meet the Opponents

None of the opponents are strangers to the Rams, as CSU has played all of them within the last two years, and Hilbert knows all three teams are talented in different ways.

“Pepperdine is a school with lots of California talent. Oregon State is from the Pac-10, which is a great volleyball conference, and they have great international talent on their team. Both (OSU and Pepperdine) are every bit as physical as us,” said Hilbert. “Pacific may be the weakest team in the tournament, but they are better than any team we saw last weekend.”

Pepperdine will be up first for the Rams today at 5 p.m., and the Waves will be a strong test, currently residing just two places out of the top-25. The Waves didn’t drop a set while sweeping all three of their matches at Cal State Fullerton’s season opening tournament. Senior outside hitter Julie Rubenstein won MVP honors for the Waves with 46 kills over the weekend.

The Rams then face tournament host Oregon State on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Beavers beat the Rams to open last season 3-2 on a neutral site in Hawaii. The Beavers also have not lost a set this season, starting the season 4-0. They are led by All Pac-10 performer Rachel Rourke, a junior outside hitter from Queensland, Australia, who has 42 kills this season.

On Sunday at 2 p.m., the Rams will take on their final opponent Pacific, and the Tigers are the only team to lose so far this season, dropping both their matches in straight sets at the University of Florida Tournament last weekend.

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