In the middle of a stretch in which the team plays eight of 11 matches on the road, the CSU volleyball team is still learning how to perform productively away from Moby Arena. The Rams came away from their weekend road trip to California and Las Vegas 1-1.
“You’ve got to make your team understand what it is they’re going to go through; that it’s going to be uncomfortable,” said head coach Tom Hilbert. “The key is for them to realize how to play when everything’s not perfectly comfortable for them and still how to play productively.”
Feeling a little more comfortable on Saturday, the Rams swept San Diego State (25-20, 25-20, 25-20) at Peterson gym in San Diego, Calif. for their 11th win in a row over the Aztecs. CSU (17-2, 7-1) has not lost to SDSU (6-12, 3-5) since the 2002 season.
Hilbert was pleased with how the team responded after its loss to UNLV on Thursday. The team hit .364, much improved over the .198 clip recorded against UNLV, and recorded only seven service errors, compared to 11 against the Rebels.
“We played with a great deal of intensity and purpose,” Hilbert said. “I was proud of our competitiveness and our ability to score points when we needed to.”
Senior setter Ashley Fornstrom said the team needs to play on the road as it does in Moby.
“We need to have the mindset that we need to play like we do at home on the road,” said Fornstrom, who finished with 42 assists. “We just got to be extra focused and extra prepared and know that it’s going to be a different environment and people are going to have a target on us because we’re on the top by ourselves right now.”
Senior middle-blocker Mekana Barnes led the team in kills with 16, while sophomore outside-hitter Jacque Davisson added 10. Davisson also tallied three service aces, three times more than the entire team was able to collect in its loss to UNLV.
All three came in the first set after the Aztecs jumped out to a 7-2 lead over the seemingly hung-over Rams who were upset over Thursday’s loss. Davisson recorded back-to-back aces to wake up the team and propel them to the 25-20 win.
The Rams totaled seven service aces and recorded eight blocks, five more than the Aztecs, in a solid defensive effort sparked by sophomore defensive specialist Audrey Hemmings.
Hemmings recorded eight of her team-leading 11 digs in the crucial second set that featured 10 ties and five lead changes.
“She made some critical plays for us, especially in set two,” Hilbert said. “They attacked her zone a lot, and she did some nice things defensively.”
Also contributing off the bench was sophomore outside-hitter Danielle Minch, who recorded seven kills at a season-high .500 clip.
“I thought Dani was great off the bench. She’s really beginning to stabilize us on the right side,” Hilbert said.
The Rams jumped out to the 2-0 lead over SDSU, but the Aztecs put up a fight in the third set, one point leading 14-7. CSU deflated any chance of an Aztec comeback however with an 11-1 run.
The Rams will make the short trip north on I-25 to Laramie, Wyo. on Friday for the second battle of the Border War against the Wyoming Cowgirls (3-14, 2-6). The Rams won the first match 3-2 on Sept. 26 in Moby Arena.
“Now that we understand some of our issues on the road, we’ll go back and work on our serve-receive and expand what we do offensively,” Hilbert said.
Volleyball beat writer Stephen Meyers can be reached at email@example.com.