Volleyball recap: Rams lose heartbreaker to No. 14 Tennessee

Aug. 31, 2012

By Nic Hallisey
Athletic Media Relations

WICHITA, Kan.—The Colorado State Rams showed Friday night that they can hang with the best in the nation, taking No. 14 Tennessee to five sets at the Shocker Volleyball Classic. However, Head Coach Tom Hilbert said afterward that his team didn’t play its best at the times it needed to most, which is what cost the Rams a shot at an upset.

“We improved from last night, which is important,” Hilbert said. “We did a lot of things better, but we didn’t play at our best during the times we needed to.”

The match was virtually as close as it could be each set. CSU dropped the first set, 25-22, before getting a 25-23 win in the second frame to even the match. It was Set 3 that really stung, though.

Despite trailing for most of the set, CSU used a 10-3 run to tie the score at 21-21, and a few points later, CSU took its first lead of the set, 25-24, and was just a point away from taking a 2-1 lead in the match. Tennessee used its second timeout, and took the next three points—the first on an attack error by Kelsey Snider and the next two on service aces.

“That three-point stretch killed us,” Hilbert said. “We were in position to win the set and have great momentum, but we didn’t.”

The Rams sought revenge in the fourth set, taking the first four points of the set and never trailing. The Lady Vols did use a 7-0 run to turn a 16-9 deficit into a tie score, but the Rams responded with four straight, and won the set, 25-22.

CSU carried that into the deciding set, jumping out early, including 8-7 when the teams switched sides. However, that’s where Tennessee would use a 6-0 run to put the match out of reach.

“We let them go on a 6-0 run, and no one comes back from that,” Hilbert said.

Hilbert did see some bright spots in the loss. The Rams did a better job of transitioning from defense to offense, he said, and they competed well with a team much more physical than any other opponent they’ve faced this season. Additionally, Friday saw the start of Adrianna Culbert’s career, a freshman from Delton, Mich.

“She did a lot of things well, and she posed a threat to the other team,” Hilbert said. “We’re going to keep player here. She’s our best option.”

Culbert, who hadn’t played in the four prior matches, earned the start and recorded eight kills on .294 hitting, in addition to 15 digs and a block.

As a team, CSU outhit (.175-.160), outdug (77-65) and outblocked Tennessee (15.5-15.0), but like Hilbert said, couldn’t get the final points when it needed to.

Senior Megan Plourde was both the offensive and defensive fixture, recording a team-high 17 kills and eight blocks. Dana Cranston had 14 kills, 14 digs and four blocks, while Brieon Paige recorded 10 kills and six blocks.

The loss is CSU’s first on a neutral court since Sept. 5, 2008, snapping a 15-match winning streak. It is also the first time CSU has lost consecutive matches in over three years (Aug. 28-29, 2009).

The Rams will close the Shocker Volleyball Classic Saturday against BYU, which is receiving votes. The match begins at 11 a.m. MT

“We made improvements tonight,” Hilbert said. “We now need to continue improving for tomorrow and the rest of the season.”