When the Colorado State and Air Force first met on the volleyball court in 1982, the Falcons swept the Rams three sets to nothing. The teams didn’t meet again for 13 years, until CSU beat the Falcons in 1995. Since then, the Rams haven’t stopped beating the Falcons, as CSU has only lost three combined sets during their 28-straight victories against the Academy.
A CSU win has become almost as certain as death or taxes, but the Rams are adamant that they won’t look past AFA when they head to Colorado Springs to face the Falcons tonight (7:00 p.m.), even with No. 25 Arizona visiting Moby Arena on Saturday.
“It is a conference game,” said junior libero Katelin Batten. “We prepare for every team the same. We have to go play the same way against (Air Force) as we play against every other team.”
The Rams (11-1, 3-0 MWC) are coming off a tougher than expected five set win against Wyoming, a team they have now beaten 21 consecutive times, and they say that going on the road to face Air Force (4-11, 0-4 MWC) could result in another test.
“Just look at our Wyoming game . I don’t think that we overlooked them, and they came out and played hard and won some sets. I think that is the same way we have to look at it for Air Force, that we can’t overlook anyone,” said junior middle blocker Tessa Nelson.
Despite never losing to Air Force, Rams head coach Tom Hilbert says that the Falcons are very difficult to prepare for, as they try something different every match.
Since the Rams don’t know what to expect, they usually add a few new wrinkles of their own.
“We try to do new things to try to keep everybody interested and alert. It depends on how the first game goes, as to what exactly we will do, but we will be trying to get a lot more balls to Tessa Nelson. She has been playing well and we want to keep her rhythm going,” Hilbert said.
Nelson was named MWC Co-Player of the Week on Monday, coming off the match against Wyoming, where she tied her career high with nine blocks and set a season-best with 11 kills. She became the fifth active Ram to win the award, and it was the third straight week a Ram was honored, showing the great depth of this CSU team.
“It just goes to prove that everything we have worked so hard for, just being so balanced.
Teams are going to focus a lot on Mekana (Barnes) and Jamie (Strauss), and our big-time hitters, so it is necessary for the rest of us to be able to hit the ball other places,” Nelson said.
Nelson added that she thought other members of her team had the stats to win the award, but Hilbert was especially glad that she was recognized.
“I am proud of her, because she doesn’t get enough accolades. She’s always overshadowed by our other players, even when she plays a very important role for us. She has played very consistently in the last five matches, so I am glad she got it,” said Hilbert said.
Volleyball beat writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at email@example.com.