The atmosphere of the first televised volleyball game of the season was certainly as electric as the broadcast waves. Fans filled the green seats inside Moby Arena to witness the Rams up their winning streak anti to five against their second Mountain West Conference opponent New Mexico (8-5, 0-2).
Last time the two teams met they went the distance — five games — with the Rams coming out the victors.
This time, however, the Rams (8-3, 2-0) were able to close out the win in three games never losing composure and landing them a 2-0 conference record.
The first set started off as many expected: As a battle that saw lead changes, frustrated faces and cheering from both sides of the net. But the Rams were able to finish off the Lobos 25-15.
The turning point came when CSU’s leader, Jacque Davisson, was penalized on a disputed call with the score at 10-7 in favor of the Rams. Davisson recovered and went on a tare, finishing the game with 13 kills.
The first set fostered the tone for the rest of the game, and head coach Tom Hilbert said this may have been the best the Rams have played all season.
“This is as complete of a match that I think we’ve played,” Hilbert said. “We (were) playing a very a good team, and they didn’t look very good. New Mexico can challenge us as (well) as any team in the conference. They passed great. But what we wanted to do was block, and we blocked very well.”
Hilbert had set a goal-average three blocks per set against a team that plays fast and has the ability to sneak in kills, and CSU stepped up to the challenge.
The Rams were able to out block the Lobos by more than that margin. Although it was a team effort, the bulk of the blocks came from setter Evan Sanders and redshirt freshman Megan Ploudre. The Rams said they take pride in stopping other team’s attacks especially when it deflates the other squad’s morale.
“It always frustrates teams when they think they’re hitting their best shot, and you shut them down,” Sanders said. “It’s really fun for us.”
The Rams certainly made the Lobos fussy, coming out in the second set still steaming from their close encounter and putting the Lobos down 25-15.
The third set was more of the same. The Lobos dug deep and found themselves tied at nine. But they just couldn’t dig CSU’s attacks and the Rams came out victorious, 25-18.
The surprise of the night, besides winning in three games, was Ploudre. Known for not making mistakes, the Wisconsin native finished first in kill percentage, .789, and second in kills with 10.
“It was exciting,” Ploudre said. “(I) was just trying to play smart. I think we (she and Sanders) connected really well.”
Hilbert is hoping to have his team prepared for another battle this Saturday as he says their opponent, TCU, is very similar to New Mexico but with better athletes.
The first serve is set to fly at 1 p.m. inside Moby Arena.
Volleyball beat reporter Keith Robertson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.