CSU opened the 2011 Rams Volleyball Classic with a 3-1 win over Slovenian professional team Nova KBM Maribor in an exhibition game Thursday night. The Rams used 14 total players in the game to follow coach Tom Hilbertâ€™s plan to spread playing time around so that his younger players could gain experience.
â€œMy hope was that we were going to have some bigger gaps,â€ Hilbert said. â€œBut we played some different people anyway and it still helped us. These young kids that are starting to get inare getting more and more valuable.â€
Freshman Marlee Reynolds entered the game in the fourth set and immediately picked up a clean kill and a block in her first action of the season. She finished with two kills, a block and an assist.
â€œIt definitely helped release the nerves that I had whenever Tom told me I was gonna be out there I got shaken up,â€ Reynolds said. â€œGoing out there and helping out the team made me feel like I fit in.â€
Nova took the first set 29-27 after the teams were tied at every point from 22-22 until 27-27 when Novaâ€™s Monika Potokar blasted the kill home. Potokar finished the set with six kills and the match with 17.
â€œWe settled down after the first game and handled their serving better,â€ Hilbert said. â€œThat makes a huge difference.â€
Colorado native and former Texas A&M product Sarah Ammerman led Nova with 19 kills and pulled up 10 digs, but also hit 11 errors in the match.
â€œI thought she was very good. We did a good job blocking everybody else on the team,â€ Hilbert said. â€œBut we really did a good job on (Ammerman) at some critical times.â€
The second set also went over the normal 25-point limit after Nova tied the match at 24, but Tori Brumett ended the set 26-24 with a kill.
CSU won the third set 25-23 despite being out-hit .226 to .158 and committing four more errors.
â€œIâ€™m really surprised we won the third set,â€ Hilbert said. â€œI donâ€™t know how we did it.â€
Nova managed only three blocks on the evening, while CSU rejected 29 Nova shots with middle blockers Megan Plourde and Breion Paige recording six each.
â€œI think a lot of times when one of us gets a block it feels better than getting a kill,â€ senior opposite hitter Kate Seffan said. â€œJust knowing youâ€™re shutting one of their big players down is a good feeling.â€
Steffan finished with five blocks on the evening, as well as five digs and a team-high 13 kills.
Though the win didnâ€™t count in CSUâ€™s record, the Rams understand the importance of keeping momentum going into this weekendâ€™s tournament.
â€œThatâ€™s a good team,â€ Hilbert said. â€œThey push you and we need to be pushed.â€
Volleyball beat reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at email@example.com.