After an early 2008 campaign that produced progress but ended in disappointment, the CSU club volleyball team is looking to build a solid foundation and achieve the results that eluded the team when it mattered most.
The Rams, who recently started fall practices, are less than a month away from the official beginning of the fall volleyball season and can already see improvement from six months ago.
Ram’s head coach Lee Merrit is very excited for this year, explaining that CSU is showing a lot of potential.
“We are going to be just as good if not better than last season,” the fourth year coach said. “We have a lot more skill at key positions.”
Merrit said CSU is hoping to rebound on a disappointing national tournament performance in April.
The Rams qualified for the national competition after winning multiple regular season tournaments, but exited earlier than expected because of key players missing time due to scheduling conflicts.
Pam Johnson, a middle setter, is confident the Rams can overcome past failures and likes what she has seen in practice so far. The senior said she can see a good team developing even this early.
“We are really well rounded, and there is a lot of promise in the girls,” she said. “We are all individually prepared to work. Now we need to all grow up from individuals to a team.”
Outside hitter Calaie Buckner agreed, adding that the mix of veteran club players and new recruits will help the team to build on last season’s early success.
“I think we can do as good as we did last year,” the junior said. “We have lots of people returning and we have some new people bringing a lot to the team.”
The Rams have retained multiple starters from last season’s team, but brought up players from the “B” squad to complete the line up.
Even though CSU has yet to play a game, the team has already set goals of winning all three tournaments it will play in during the fall season. The Rams will hit the road throughout the autumn campaign playing in tournaments in Virginia and St. Louis.
Buckner explained that because of the brief two month fall club season, the team has to take advantage of any opportunity to play it can.
“Since the season is so short, everyone’s heart has to be in it,” she said. “We literally have to put our best foot forward at every practice.”
The club team has achieved success through hard work and effort, but also gives credit to a quality varsity volleyball program for helping to bring motivation. Buckner, who has played club volleyball since she was ten years old, said the varsity squad has given her team something to strive for.
“We want to be a good team on campus,” she said. “They are a positive influence on us. We watch their games to see what they are doing and get better.”
Merrit has even talked to varsity coach Tom Hilbert in hopes of improving his team. The CSU graduate even have hopes of forming a partnership of sorts in which players who fail to make the varsity squad will be encouraged to join the club team.
“It would really help us out,” he said. “The better the varsity team can be the better we will be.”
Johnson said she fully supports the varsity squad, but both teams deserve respect.
“We’re only the club team, but we are definitely legitimate and still competitive,” the Spanish major said. “They are obviously more committed but we’re both there to play, work hard and win.”
The Rams begin their fall season Oct. 25 at Virginia Tech and then head home to host a tournament in Fort Collins Nov. 8.
Sports reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at email@example.com.