Volleyball spring prospectus: Rams host spring tournament Saturday
April 11, 2012
View full spring prospectus (including roster and 2011 final stats)
The Rams will continue their spring season with home a scrimmage on Saturday. The all-day event will feature eight teams--including Colorado, Northern Colorado and Wyoming--with multiple matches being played throughout the day. The event gives fans their first chance to get a look at CSU as the team prepares for its fourth straight conference championship. The action is set to begin at 9 a.m., and is free to the public.
About Colorado State
The CSU Rams volleyball program began in 1976, and since, has been synonymous with winning and success, averaging nearly 21 wins a season and posting an all-time record of 754-374 (.668 winning percentage). The Rams have won 16 conference titles (11 regular-season, five conference tournament), which is more than any other program at CSU. However, the program’s success is seen on a national level, and can be broken down into three categories:
• NCAA tournaments: CSU has been to 23 NCAA tournaments, including 17 straight dating back to 1997. Just 12 Division-I teams have earned more tournament berths, and the Rams’ stretch of 17 consecutive appearances is the eighth-longest active streak in the country.
• Rankings: The Rams have appeared in the final AVCA top-25 poll in 15 of their 30 seasons (the AVCA started its ranking system in 1982), including the past four years. Overall, CSU has been ranked in 236 of the 520 all-time weekly polls, 14th-most in the NCAA. The Rams’ highest-ever ranking was No. 3, in October 2000, and their highest final ranking was No. 6, in 1987. CSU has been ranked in the top 10 58 times, 18th-most in the NCAA.
• All-Americans: With two All-America selections in 2011, the Rams now have 12 to their program’s history. Just 16 teams across the nation have more All-Americans than CSU.
Despite losing four starters from the 2010 team which advanced to the NCAA Regional quarterfinals, CSU did not show a letdown, winning 24 games—its 17th-consecutive 20-win season—claiming the Mountain West regular-season and conference-tournament titles, and again advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament. CSU did this despite having a freshman setter, a first-year starting libero, and several players playing new or different positions, including Mountain West Player of the Year, Katelyn Steffan.
CSU has a talented group of returning players, including a quartet of seniors in outside hitter Dana Cranston, libero Izzy Gaulia, and middle blockers Brieon Paige and Megan Plourde. Additionally, CSU will have its starting setter—Deedra Foss—at the net, in addition to several other players—Carlie Foust, Kelsey Snider, Kaila Thomas—who played a critical role as freshmen in 2011. Head Coach Tom Hilbert will also have returning production in juniors Samantha Peters and Michelle Smith, sophomore Marlee Reynolds and redshirt freshman Kaitlind Bestgen.
• Cranston – led the Rams with 36 service aces, and ranked second with 2.46 kills per set and 2.54 digs per set; named to the all-Mountain West team.
• Foss – ranked second in the MW with 10.66 assists per set, and fourth with 0.27 service aces per set; named MW Newcomer of the Year.
• Foust – as a true freshman, appeared in 103 of the Rams’ 107 sets, ranking fifth on the team with 1.44 digs per set and tallying 12 service aces.
• Gaulia – set a CSU single-season record with 508 digs, also recording double-digit dig totals in 26 matches, including a single-match record of 39 against Oregon; named the Mountain West Volleyball Championship’s outstanding libero.
• Paige – led MW with a .333 hitting percentage (34th nationally), also posting 1.02 blocks per set (seventh in MW) and 2.12 kills per set; named to the all-Mountain West team.
• Plourde – ranked No. 1 in the nation with 1.71 blocks per set—tying a school record—and was named an AVCA All-American; also averaged 2.38 kills per set; enters senior season ranked fourth in CSU history with 461 career blocks.
• Snider – started 11 matches as a redshirt freshman, averaging 1.18 kills and 0.69 blocks per set.
• Thomas – was critical in CSU’s five-set win over No. 5 Nebraska, and averaged 1.14 kills per set before missing the final 19 matches of the season with a head injury; granted a medical hardship waiver.
CSU’s lone senior from 2011 was outside hitter Katelyn Steffan, who had one of the most prolific seasons of recent memory. She averaged 3.59 kills and 4.31 points per set, both second in the MW. For her efforts, the Dickinson, N.D., native was named an AVCA All-American, was selected as the MW Volleyball Player of the Year and tournament MVP and was honored as the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame’s College Female Athlete of the Year.
While Steffan was the only senior from last year’s roster, the Rams suffered several other losses, including the departures of Tori Brummett and Brittany Bunch. Brummett, a sophomore last season, was one of five players with at least 100 kills. She also hit .291—ninth in the MW— and recorded 0.77 blocks per set. Bunch, a walk-on from Denver, redshirted in 2011.
What’s more, CSU lost both of its assistant coaches in Jesse Mahoney and Bri Frech. Mahoney, who spent seven seasons in Fort Collins, including five as the associate head coach, took the head coaching position at the University of Denver. During his time with CSU, he brought in several top recruiting classes and turned the Rams into one of the nation’s top blocking programs. Frech, a former player under Hilbert, was an assistant coach for four years, and left this spring for personal reasons.
Replacing Mahoney as associate head coach is Fort Collins native, Brook Coulter, a 2001 graduate of the University of California. She previously was at the University of Georgia, working with outside hitters and liberos, and has also spent time as an assistant at DU (2007-10) and Nevada (2002). Frech’s replacement will be announced in the coming week.
Joining the roster as student-athletes will be:
• Acacia Andrews – named to the homeschool All-America team as a sophomore before attending Norman North as a senior and becoming an all-state alternate and propelling her school to the state tournament.
• Jaime Colaizzi – led Windsor High School to the 2011 state semifinals, earning first-team all-state honors.
• Adrianna Culbert – three-time first-team all-Michigan selection and finalist for Michigan’s Miss Volleyball award.
• Anastassia Koutchouk – originally born in Belarus, she grew up in Calais, France; won the 2011 national championship in the second division, and as a sophomore assisted her team to the European Cup and competed with the French young national team.
The Hilbert factor
Entering his 16th season at the helm of the Rams, Tom Hilbert is looking for the same success he’s seen in his previous 15 seasons, plus more. His 382 wins at CSU are more than any coach in any sport. Additionally, he holds 556 career wins and a winning percentage of .768.
• Record at CSU: 382-96 (.799) – winningest coach in any sport at CSU.
• Career record: 556-168 – 19th among active coaches in wins.
• Career winning percentage: .768 – 10th among active coaches; 15th among all coaches all-time.
On Nov. 4, CSU earned a three-set win over Wyoming, and less than 24 hours later TCU fell on the road, giving the Rams their third straight MW regular-season title. Since the conference formed in 1999, CSU has won nine regular-season championships and five tournament titles. The 2011 season marked the third straight year that the Rams have led the conference wire-to-wire.
CSU is 169-28 (.858) all-time against MW opponents.
Top of the nation
Middle blocker Megan Plourde excelled on the court all season, and in December was rewarded for her performance, earning the title of the NCAA’s top blocker.
The junior from Somerset, Wis., averaged 1.71 blocks per set, leading the nation and tying for the highest blocks-per-set total in program history.
The middle blocker became the second player in CSU history to be the annual leader in a statistical category, joining Angela Knopf, the only two-time first-team All-American in school annals. Knopf was the nation’s most efficient hitter during the 2001 season, holding an attack percentage of .456, which still stands as the eighth-best single-season figure in NCAA history.
For years, Moby Arena has been known as one of the most hostile venues for opposing teams. Not only does the arena produce big crowds, but the team on the court produces big wins—at a high rate.
In 15 seasons under Hilbert, the Rams are 211-27 (.887) at Moby, including 24-11 against nationally ranked teams. The Rams closed the 2011 season 11-1 (.917) at home, including winning their final nine contests. Dating back to 1995, CSU has recorded at least 10 home wins each season. The season winning percentage ranks ninth all-time, and marks the ninth time CSU has lost one match or fewer at Moby Arena, and the first time since 2008.
The Rams were again among the best in attendance figures, drawing an average crowd of 2,151, good for 17th in the nation. CSU established a program and Mountain West record when 6,750 fans came through the turnstiles to witness the Rams upset then-No. 5 Nebraska on Sept. 2. That figure was the 20th-largest single-match crowd of 2011. It was the fourth-largest when excluding matches played at Hawaii’s Stan Sheriff Center.
Since the NCAA began calculating annual attendance figures in 1999, the Rams have ranked in the top 25 each season, including in the top 10 three times.
All-Americans & other hardware
Megan Plourde and Katelyn Steffan became the ninth and 10th players in CSU history to earn All-America honors, both being selected to the AVCA third team in 2011. It marked just the fourth time that two Rams have been selected in the same season.
Additionally, at the Mountain West awards dinner on Nov. 17, Head Coach Tom Hilbert and five players were honored for their performance throughout the 2011 season. Dana Cranston, Brieon Paige and Katelyn Steffan were each named to the all-Mountain West team for the first time, while junior Megan Plourde earned her third career selection. Redshirt freshman Deedra Foss was named the league’s newcomer of the year, while Steffan took home the top honor, being named the 2011 player of the year. It marked the eighth time in the league’s 13-year history that a CSU player has been tabbed as the player of the year.
Hilbert was also recognized, winning his MW eighth coach-of-the-year trophy. Additionally, Hilbert earned the 2011 West Region Coach of the Year trophy, his first as Head Coach of the Rams, and third of his career.
Get all the updates on Facebook & Twitter
CSU volleyball and Head Coach Tom Hilbert are both on Twitter, at twitter.com/CSUVolleyball and twitter.com/CoachHilbert. Rams volleyball is also on Facebook, giving fans unprecedented access to CSU volleyball. Become a fan at www.facebook.com/CSUVolleyball.