After spending more than a week dominating in their home gym and extending their winning streak to 12, the CSU volleyball team (16-3, 8-0 MWC) will mosey down to Fort Worth, Texas for its second televised conference match of the season against the TCU Horned Frogs (17-5, 6-2 MWC) tonight.
It should be a battle.
TCU is a talented home team; they have only dropped two of the eight matches played in Fort Worth. On the flip side, the Rams have posted one of the best road records in volleyball as they have only fallen once whilst traveling.
Unfortunately, the team may have to play without the help of the Rams’ leading killer Danielle Minch. Minch has a career high 240 kills this season but is listed questionable with a shoulder injury and should be a game-time-decision for tonight’s game.
The Rams have dominated the Mountain West Conference, but the team knows that a “white out” by the fans in addition to the already splintery environment of a television game posts a large challenge to CSU’s perfect conference record.
“They’re talented,” head coach Tom Hilbert said. “We’ve got to go in there and really play well and we’ve got to play a complete game.”
The last time the two teams met in September, the Rams dispatched TCU in straight sets. But the Horned Frogs have had the Rams number inside Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.
CSU came away with a loss the past two seasons and to ensure that doesn’t happen again, the Rams know what’s necessary.
“We’re going to have to come out with a lot of energy and come out competitive,” senior middle blocker Tessa Nelson said. “(We) expect to be uncomfortable on the road and embrace that.”
The Horned Frogs are a sizable team that uses its ability to slide-hit to its advantage.
The Rams, however, expect the movement. CSU has seen plenty of slide-hitting this season and have been using their practices in preparation for the TCU style.
But to win this match, Hilbert said the team has to focus on the easy things. Because the teams are so close in comparison, serving, passing and defense could be the determining factors in who struts away with the bragging rights. The Rams have been surprisingly efficient on the defensive side of the ball thus far, and with TCU having tall, strong players at the net, the Rams will have their work etched out for them.
“We definitely are going to have to play good defense,” senior libero Katelin Batten said. “It’s harder on the road to get comfortable and stay relaxed on defense, but we’ll be fine.”
The Rams have been doing just fine. And others are finally taking notice as the Rams were lifted to the No. 25 spot in the AVCA poll this week. The team says recognition is always nice, but now that the weight of being a national contender is on their shoulders, they’re going to need to deal with it.
“It doesn’t feel a whole lot different,” Nelson said. “We didn’t change anything. What really matters is where we’re at at the end of the season.”
Volleyball beat reporter Keith Robertson can be reached at email@example.com.