With the changing leaves of autumn comes an annual reminder of where Mother Nature’s allegiance lies: with the green and gold of the Rams.
No Ram team has flourished this fall season quite like the women of volleyball (12-3, 4-0 MWC), who travel to San Diego State tonight in search of their ninth consecutive victory.
Head coach Tom Hilbert, though happy with his team’s progression, said the schedule will only get harder in the months ahead.
“I still believe our toughest tests are ahead of us,” Hilbert said. “Our conference opponents have come in somewhat of an ascending order this season.”
Hilbert is particularly wary of tonight’s opponent, calling the Aztecs the toughest road conference test thus far.
“When you are in someone else’s gym, they usually end up serving and passing better,” Hilbert said. “You’ve got to disrupt them a little bit or they’ll get side out after side out.”
The Aztecs (6-9, 1-5 MWC) return 15 players from their 2008 team, who finished with a record of 9-21 and are led by first year head coach Deitre Collins-Parker, who previously coached at UNLV.
Though the Rams lost three all-conference players a season ago, this year’s team has not missed a beat. A large factor in the Rams’ continued success has been the emergence of outside hitters Jacque Davisson and Danielle Minch along with setter Evan Sanders, all of whom make strong cases to be included in the all-conference team at season’s end.
“The team is improving with every match,” said Minch, who leads the team with 191 kills on the season. “We all believe we still have a lot of growth to make.”
During the Rams’ current eight-game winning streak, the team has dropped only three sets. The Rams have beaten up on lesser opponents on the road, something they failed to do with any consistency a year ago. And though last year was labeled the “Big Year” for CSU volleyball, the 2009 team is on pace to win more games than last season, and perhaps capture a conference title – something the 2008 team failed to accomplish.
Hilbert has been most impressed this year with the team’s ability to compete in close sets.
“It’s been a fun year so far,” Hilbert said. “Beyond learning well, we are competing really well at the end of close sets.”
The Rams will look to continue their winning ways tonight at 8 p.m. in San Diego. The match can be heard live on the radio at 90.5 KCSU-FM.
Volleyball beat reporter Joel Hafnor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.