The CSU football team couldn’t have scheduled their bye week at a better time, because the show this weekend won’t be at Hughes Stadium — it will be at Moby Arena.
The No. 21 CSU volleyball team hosts two of the biggest names in college sports, North Carolina (Friday, 7 p.m.) and No. 8 Florida (Saturday, 7 p.m.), in the final two matches of the Coors Rocky Mountain Challenge.
These matches will be a preview that will prove whether or not the Rams have what it takes to reach the goals they have set for themselves, which include a conference championship and NCAA tournament success.
“We feel like, to do the things we want to do this year, we will need wins over high profile teams to get where we want to go,” Hilbert said. “This will prepare us and help us the rest of the year.”
The Rams dropped Colorado in the first game of the tournament Wednesday, and they hope to carry over that momentum through the weekend, as conference play starts next Thursday.
“It was big to get a win, but we are going to have to work our way up with North Carolina, and then Florida; they are both big programs,” said senior middle blocker Mekana Barnes, who leads the Rams in kills and blocks so far this season.
If the Rams can win both matches this weekend, it would put them on a five-game winning streak going into next week against Utah.
“I think that it will be very big to go into conference play with momentum” said senior setter Ashley Fornstrom. “It would be nice to go 3-0 in the three games this weekend, especially since we know how tough that conference play is.”
The Rams are currently riding a 17-match winning streak at Moby Arena, and while it is a nice feat, they aren’t focused on it.
“We just want to play every match and play well,” said Rams head coach Tom Hilbert. “We don’t worry about the streak, we just go out and play.”
North Carolina comes into the weekend 3-3 on the season. The Tar Heels dropped their first three matches, two against top-25 teams, before coming home to sweep the Tar Heel Classic last weekend.
Florida, who is currently 6-0, beat Colorado 3-1 last night and will be the first ranked team the Rams will face. Saturday’s match will be televised on the Mtn. sports network, which is also a first this season for the Rams.
Hilbert often describes his team as physical, and he expects the same from the Rams’ opponents this weekend.
“They are both physical teams. They’re all big and they will hit the ball very well. Florida is a bit younger, but they will be more dynamic in their play,” Hilbert said.
Volleyball beat writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.