In the same week head coach Tom Hilbert celebrated his 500th win, the CSU volleyball team accomplished another history book-inking stat.
The CSU Rams won their 700th match as a program Saturday, in a straight set win over San Diego State.
The new notch appropriately came off the hands of redshirt freshman Megan Plourde, who had one of her best matches of the season. Plourde finished with game-highs in blocks and kills with four and 10, respectively.
Her final smack down, to give the Rams a 25-20 victory in the third set, was an exclamation mark on how well this team is playing under pressure and how young talent is becoming experienced and consistent.
“Every time our team gets in these competitive tough end-game sets, I like it,” Hilbert said. “I like it because it’s good experience. It toughens them up, and we’re used to winning those. And I’m glad to see us do it.”
There was plenty to be glad about after this match. The big time and big-number win, a continued leg-up in the conference, was the 12th straight win inside Moby Arena and the emergence of a dominant squad that can consistently produce under when under the gun.
But there was also an excess of service and attacking errors. The Rams tied SDSU in both areas with eight and 17, respectively, and the give-away points put CSU in trouble throughout the match.
“We had a lot of give-away points,” Hilbert said. “But we competed at the right times.”
After CSU got an early lead in the first set, the Aztecs came back and made it interesting.
The Rams put together two four-point scoring runs, but never took more than a five-point lead. SDSU forced six ties throughout the set and out-blocked CSU by two, but a heavy dose of setter Evan Sanders won over the set.
Sanders landed three of four quick-tip kills in the first set, all of which adding to the impressive .394 kill percentage the team had.
“It was weird being able to attack,” Sanders said. “I just try to do what I can with all the passes I’m given. I just try to keep pressure on the other team. I mean if they stop me, I’m going to keep doing it.”
The six-foot setter finished the game with four kills, 40 assists and one block but was most effective when the Rams really needed her during the second set. The Rams came out flat in set deuce and after six lead changes found themselves down 22-19. Hilbert took a time out and the Rams won six of the seven final points, behind Sanders’ five jump serves.
Impressive as the sophomore was, a freshman was also able to act like charity and make a difference.
Plourde, looked lost in the first half of the second. She closed out the set with only one kill and three errors, good for a -.333 percentage.
However, Plourde focused in the final set, going six-for-eight, including the final kill when San Diego State was spitting down CSU’s neck.
“Megan had a great turn-around though from game two,” Hilbert said. “She struggled in game two and came back and played outstanding in game three.”
The final set looked as if it were over early as the Rams were up 23-13, but the Aztecs wouldn’t go quietly into afternoon. SDSU put together a five-point run and forced a CSU time out before getting another run of three, bringing their total to 20 at match point before CSU could finish off the match.
“Even though it got close, we stayed really competitive, and we were composed, and we were able to finish it,” Plourde said.
The Rams have made some serious steps this season, all of them in the right direction. But with five matches left, including road games at BYU and Utah, the Rams understand that this isn’t the time to get complacent.
“We just want to improve every single set,” said junior outside hitter Dani Minch. “We’ve wanted to get better at our game and I think that we’ve done a good job. We don’t want to plateau at any time, we want to keep working hard.”
Expect Minch to keep working hard this week as she is, “out for blood” against Utah, where the Rams play Thursday and BYU, whom they get Saturday night. Both games can be heard on 90.5 KCSU-FM.
Volleyball beat reporter Keith Robertson can be reached at email@example.com.