Tonight is a shot at history for CSU volleyball coach Tom Hilbert.
If the Rams win in their second-half of conference play tonight against UNLV, Hilbert will become the winningest coach in university sports history. He is currently tied with legendary basketball coach Jim Williams for most career victories at CSU with 352.
And while Hilbert feels that setting a new winningest coach record â€“â€“ one he set last year â€“â€“ is the bigger accomplishment, he admits, â€œitâ€™s nice to be talked about with Jim Williams.â€
In its match tonight, the No. 14 CSU is set to go up against UNLV, whom the Rams swept earlier this season.
Once again, CSU (20-2, 9-0 MWC) will be missing one of its key players when it faces the Rebels. Danielle Minch missed the first matchup between the two teams this season, and now sophomore Megan Plourde is not expected to play Thursday after picking up a minor ankle injury.
Missing Plourde, a middle blocker, will be even tougher to deal with when facing a UNLV attack that is built on a quick middle attack.
â€œThese guys are a tough team because their offense is predicated on how fast the middle (blockers) attack the ball,â€ said coach Tom Hilbert. â€œThat makes it difficult to prepare for, and now weâ€™ve got one of our middles (Plourde) out, which makes a big difference. If they are within their system, theyâ€™re going to be good.â€
In order to defeat UNLV (8-16, 3-7) as they did earlier in the season, the Rams will have to find ways to knock the Rebels out of rhythm and make them play an offensive style they arenâ€™t comfortable with.
â€œWhen they get on a roll, theyâ€™re going to be really good at that stuff they do,â€ setter Evan Sanders said. â€œBut if weâ€™re able to put pressure on them, I think we can break down the offense they are trying to run.â€
CSU will be able to disrupt UNLV through tough serving and defending. If the Rams serve into tough spots, it will make it difficult for the Rebels to run their offense.
CSU hopes to defend well and transition into offense and put balls away for points to prevent UNLV from running its offense in rhythm.
Despite UNLVâ€™s record, and winning the first matchup of the season, the Rams know that in matches like this one it is key to remain focused and continue to work on their game as the season moves closer to its conclusion and the beginning of tournament play approaches.
â€œTheyâ€™re going to come in and play hard,â€ said senior Jacque Davisson. â€œTheyâ€™re a good team, so we definitely need to focus on our stuff. Like always, just focus on what weâ€™re doing.â€
The players are certainly excited to be a part of this occasion.
â€œThat is really cool,â€ Davisson said about being a part of the team that will help Hilbert set the record. â€œI think itâ€™s really cool for him too.â€
Volleyball Beat Reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at email@example.com.