Rams volleyball favorite to win fourth straight MW title

Aug. 14, 2012

By Nic Hallisey
Athletic Media Relations

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—One day after being ranked in the AVCA Division I Coaches 2012 Preseason Poll, more high expectations were thrown toward the Colorado State volleyball team, as the Rams were picked by the league to win their fourth straight Mountain West title.

Out of the nine MW head women’s volleyball coaches, eight chose the Rams to defend their title. The eight first-place votes earned CSU 80 total points. San Diego State, the 2011 runner-up, earned 69 points for second place, while Wyoming earned the other first-place vote for 66 total points and third place. The MW made the announcement Tuesday morning. The full preseason standings can be found below.

“It seems like we’re always in this situation,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. “It’s a target on our back. These girls are used to playing with that pressure. They know that everybody gets fired up when they play us. It requires that we go out and play with excellence every night, because we’re going to get every Mountain West team’s best every time we play them. As an athlete, you should want that.”

In addition to being the team favorite, senior outside hitter Dana Cranston was selected—along with Wyoming’s Jodi Purdy—to share the 2012 MW Preseason Player of the Year award. Cranston joins the three other seniors on Hilbert’s squad—Izzy Gaulia, Brieon Paige and Megan Plourde—as four of the seven players selected to the All-Mountain West Preseason Team.

“I’m proud of them,” Hilbert said, “and I think it shows respect for them as players. They now have to come out now and prove it.”

Cranston, from Fort St. John, B.C., averaged 2.46 kills and 2.54 digs per set while hitting .238 last season. Plourde, a middle blocker from Somerset, Wis., led the nation in blocking with 1.71 per set in 2011. She also had 2.38 kills per set while hitting .297. She was named an AVCA All-American. Paige, also a middle blocker, led the conference with a .333 hitting percentage. The Sacramento, Calif., native also averaged 2.16 kills per set and 1.02 blocks per set. Gaulia, a libero from Glendale, Ariz., averaged 4.75 digs per set—a CSU single-season record—and was named to the MW All-Tournament team in 2011. Cranston and Paige earned regular-season All-Mountain West team hardware for the first time, while Plourde was a third-time selection in 2011.

It marks the fifth year in a row that a CSU player has been selected as the preseason player of the year. Last year, Plourde was tabbed as the favorite before teammate Katelyn Steffan earned the honor at the end of the season. If Cranston—or another Rams player—wins the 2012 Mountain West Player of the Year award in November, it will mark the fifth consecutive season a CSU player has done so. In all, the Rams have taken home the top individual award eight times in the league’s 13-year history.

As a team, CSU has now been picked as the league’s preseason favorite each of the last three seasons, and four times in the last five years, which is easy to see given CSU’s 169-28 (.858) all-time record in MW matches. In 13 years, the Rams have won nine regular-season titles, in addition to earning the tournament trophy five times out of 10 chances.

Winners of the last three regular-season championships, CSU will look to win its fourth straight, a feat also accomplished when the program won five consecutive from 2000-04 (CSU also won the 1999 tournament championship).

Big expectations, however, mean added pressure.

“Every team will be looking to beat us, so we can’t allow for a bad game,” Hilbert said. “I think there are some pretty good teams out there. I am surprised, frankly, that Wyoming was not selected at least second. They will battle us, as will all other teams.”

Hilbert noted that the Rams have been able to overcome the target on their backs in the past through consistency.

“We are an experienced team,” he said. “We’ve been in this situation before, but with consistency and an understanding that we need to use the tools that we have, we’ve been able to remain in this position. I believe that we are the most athletically superior team in this league, so we just need to go out there and get it done.”

The 2012 season begins on Aug. 24 vs. Virginia, part of the Rams Volleyball Rocky Mountain Invitational. In addition to a chance for a fourth consecutive league crown, CSU will look to earn a berth in its 18th straight NCAA tournament. The Rams went 24-6 in 2011 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament, earning a No. 25 ranking in the final AVCA Coaches poll. They will also begin the 2012 season ranked No. 25 nationally.

2012 ALL-MOUNTAIN WEST PRESEASON WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL TEAM

Player Class Position Team
Dana Cranston SR OH Colorado State
Brieon Paige SR MB Colorado State
Megan Plourde SR MB Colorado State
Andrea Hannasch SR MB San Diego State
Jodi Purdy SR OH Wyoming
Setter: Johnna Fouch JR S San Diego State
Libero: Izzy Gaulia SR L Colorado State
Co-Preseason Players of the Year: Dana Cranston Colorado State
Jodi Purdy Wyoming


2012 MOUNTAIN WEST PRESEASON WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL COACHES' POLL

Place Team (First-Place Votes) Points
1. Colorado State (8) 80
2. San Diego State 69
3. Wyoming (1) 66
4. Fresno State 45
5. UNLV 42
6. New Mexico 40
7. Boise State 36
8. Nevada 16
9. Air Force 11