After already capturing the Mountain West Conference Championship the CSU Rams volleyball team hasn’t lost any of its drive to win. Tomorrow night, the Rams will host the first of their last two matches of the season against UNLV.
The Rams are on a six-match winning streak and haven’t lost at home since the end of August. But the team wants to get the best possible seed in the NCAA Tournament as possible, so every game matters. And while the Rams won’t admit to looking past the Rebels, they understand this is the best time to tinker and improve on their play before heading into the national tournament.
“You can’t overlook them, they’re a tough team,” said junior Danielle Minch, who leads the team in kills. “Of course we’re looking at things that we need to do in order to get deep into the tournament, but in order to get deep in the tournament we have to play well.”
The last time CSU saw the Rebels across the net in Las Vegas on Sept. 18, the Rams swept the match and had more than double UNLV’s kill percentage. Minch was the largest contributing statistical factor the last time the two teams played as she finished the night with a match-high 15 kills and one solo block. But the Rebels are an improved team. They swept the only MWC team to beat CSU, Texas Christian, this week and will continue to run a fast tempo offense that has confused opponents lately.
“They’re a lot better,” junior outside hitter Jacque Davisson said. “I think it should be an exciting match. They have nothing to lose, so it’s going to be a good game.”
UNLV has simplified their offense to cut down on the number of mistakes they commit. Against the Rams earlier this season the Rebels had 27 total errors and have 50 more attacking errors than their opponents through 27 games this season.
“They’ve done some smart things,” said head coach Tom Hilbert. “And they’re more efficient. They still run the zero-tempo offense which is one of the hardest we’ve faced.”
The zero-tempo is setting the middle player before the opposing team has the time to jump and make plays at the net.
The Rams will get their conference championship trophy the night of the match and feel as if a loss would be a pretty disappointing compliment to the ceremony so the team will do everything to get a win, for the trophy’s sake and for their seed’s.
With the conference championship behind them, it might be expected that the Rams shift some personnel and get some of the younger players in the game. But Hilbert elaborated as to what it would take to see that happen.
“Only if there’s a big gap, because we need to win,” Hilbert said.
Volleyball Beat Reporter Keith Robertson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.