Volleyball recap: Rams hold off Panthers
By Nic Hallisey
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo.—Colorado State’s win over No. 12 Pepperdine on Friday night translated over during the first two sets Saturday, as CSU soundly beat Florida International by scores of 25-15 and 25-17. However, the Panthers rallied for a 26-24 victory in Set 3 before the Rams were able to squeak by in the fourth set, 33-31.
“That last set was a monster,” Hilbert said. “I’m not happy with the way our team competed overall today. I thought we were great playing in the first two sets, but we didn’t maintain it, and sometimes, when a team pushes back, you’ve got to figure out a way to respond.”
After CSU (6-3) took a set-high 19-15 lead, FIU (2-6) rallied back to tie the score at 21-21, forcing CSU to use its second timeout. From there, the set would see ties at 22-22 and 23-23 before the Rams brought the Moby Arena crowd to its feet for match point, at 24-23. That was the first of seven match points in a row, as the teams exchanged the next 14 points before the Panthers finally got consecutive points and held their first set point, 31-30. However, Ryanne Milligan’s serve went into the net, tying the score once again, at 31-31. Deedra Foss hit a long serve that landed inside the tape to put the Rams ahead, followed by a big block by Brieon Paige and Adrianna Culbert to seal the set and win. The final set saw 20 ties and eight lead changes.
“We are lucky to win that last set,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. “FIU did a great job with their outside hitters and the tempo that they set, we couldn’t stop it. Luckily we were able to sideout back and it was a very competitive set.”
The 33 points is the most in a set since the Rams scored 34 vs. San Diego State on Sept. 27, 2007, when sets went to 30 points.
Megan Plourde led the Rams with 15 kills on .429 hitting, including 10 in the first two sets. Paige, who sat most of Set 3 so Hilbert could try out some different lineups, recorded 11 kills on .647 hitting. Kelsey Snider also had double-digit kills for the second consecutive match, with 12.
The Rams recorded a season-high 16.5 blocks, led by Plourde’s nine. Despite hitting .190 in Set 4, the Rams still had a .304 attack percentage on the day. Foss was effective with the middle blockers, recording 48 assists, in addition to six blocks and three kills.
“I think just keeping the tempo in there was giving us opportunities for the gaps and to hit them,” Plourde said on her connection with Foss. “Deedra was getting the sets there, we were connecting well.”
The Rams came out extremely effective early, hitting .469 and recording zero attack errors in the first set. They led the whole way through, never giving up consecutive points.
CSU ran out to a 9-6 lead in Set 2, but a 5-0 FIU run gave the Panthers the advantage. The score was then tied at each point from 11 through 16. With CSU trailing 15-16, the Rams flipped the switch and went on a 10-1 run to close the set. Included in the run was a Dana Cranston ace, four kills by Plourde and two kills by Paige—including two of the final three points.
“We won the first two sets too easily,” Hilbert said. “It just becomes a mindset, and then all of a sudden it’s harder and your team gets a little mentally disrupted. Now you are playing from a more tentative state of mind and that shouldn’t happen. We have to figure out a way to not let that happen.”
Trailing 10-11 in Set 3, CSU took four straight points to take a 14-11 lead. The Rams held the lead, and led late, 21-15, before FIU stormed back to tie the score at 22-22. With the set knotted at 24-24, the Panthers took the final two points to force a fourth set.
The win is CSU’s 15th consecutive at Moby Arena, dating back to the 2011 season. It is the fifth-longest in program history.
CSU returns to the court on Sunday and will look to win its sixth consecutive home tournament. All-time, the Rams are 68-13 in regular-season home tournaments under Hilbert. The Rams and New Mexico State Aggies begin at 12 p.m. MT.
The match will be the fourth of five home matches in a row for the Rams. Fans not in attendance can follow along with the action through Twitter (@CSURamsGameday), online (www.KCSUFM.com or 90.5 FM locally) or through a video subscription (www.CSURams.com/AllAccess).
“We just need to be more mentally prepared tomorrow on every single point,” Hilbert said. “We can’t get tentative.”