Match notes: Rams hit road searching for wins

Oct. 10, 2012

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Scouting Fresno State
The Rams will partake in just their third road trip of the season when they face the Fresno State Bulldogs on Thursday, who come into the match with a 10-7 record overall, including a  3-2 mark in Mountain West play. The match will be just the fifth time that Fresno State has played at home this season, with the Bulldogs splitting the first four prior matches.

Fresno State relies heavily on its strong defense in the back row, as well as a tough serving game to knock opponents out of rhythm. The Bulldogs rank first in the conference in digs per set at 15.21, a full dig per set over Colorado State. On top of that, Fresno State is second in service aces (1.39 per set). In conference play, the Bulldogs have bolstered their offensive attack, ranking first in both hitting percentage and kills, and second in assists.

Junior outside hitter Marissa Brand leads the team, averaging 3.77 kills and 4.11 points per set, both second in the league. Brand has saved some of her best volleyball for conference play, where she has upped those averages to 4.29 kills and 4.56 points per set. Sophomore middle blocker Maci Murdock provides the Bulldogs with an important presence in the middle to complement Brand on the outside. Murdock leads the conference with a .353 hitting percentage, an average she has raised to .382 in conference play.

Fresno State’s offensive attack is controlled by senior setter Barbara Alcantara, who comes into the match at the top of the conference with 11.20 assists per set. Korrin Wild, a junior outside hitter, also helps the Bulldogs score some easy points, ranking 31st nationally in service aces (0.42 per set). That mark puts her at the top of the Mountain West, as well.

Series vs. the Bulldogs
Fresno State and Colorado State will renew their rivalry on Thursday, as they once again are conference foes. The two teams formerly were both in the WAC. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 8-5, but the Rams have won the last two matches, most recently in 1997, Head Coach Tom Hilbert’s first season in Fort Collins. The Rams are just 1-4 against the Bulldogs in Fresno, winning in 1996, which was the most recent time CSU has traveled to Fresno.

Rams vs. REBELS - The matchup
SATURDAY, OCT. 14, 2012 | 2 P.M. MT | COX PAVILION (2,452) | LAS VEGAS, NEV.

Scouting UNLV
UNLV comes into the week at 12-6 overall and 4-1 in the Mountain West putting them in first place. The Rebels have been tough to stop while playing in front of their home crowd, posting a 7-1 record at Cox Pavilion. UNLV is also as hot as any team winning seven in a row before falling in five sets at San Diego State last Sunday.

Statistically, the Rebels have one of the most complete and balanced teams in the conference. As a team, UNLV ranks first in hitting percentage (.241), assists (12.91 per set) and kills (13.72 per set). The Rebels are also in the top three in digs (14.93 per set) and blocks (2.62 per set). Overall, UNLV ranks in the top 60 nationally in four different categories.

Junior middle blocker Madeline Westman leads the way for UNLV’s success, and should provide a great matchup against CSU’s Megan Plourde. Westman is second in the Mountain West, only behind Plourde, with 1.51 blocks per set, which ranks her No. 11 nationally. The junior also ranks eighth in the conference with 3.73 points per set, all while maintaining a hitting percentage of .324. Complementing Westman on the outside is Sekola Falemaka, giving the Rebels a dangerous one-two attack. Falemaka averages 3.04 kills per set, but has improved her play in conference to 3.50 kills per set.

The Rebels rely on their talented freshman setter Kinsey Caldwell to keep their offense in rhythm. In just her first year, Caldwell is second in the conference with 10.54 assists per set, placing her just outside of the top 60 nationally.

Series vs. the Rebels
Colorado State has enjoyed success against UNLV, leading the all-time series 29-6. The Rams have also won 11 of 16 matches played in Las Vegas, including a five-set match in 2011. Colorado State is riding some momentum against UNLV winning the last eight matches against the Rebels, including the last three in Las Vegas. The most recent overall meeting was a 3-0 CSU win in the finals of the Mountain West Championships.

In six career matches,  senior middle blockers Megan Plourde and Brieon Paige have had their way with UNLV, posting 65 kills, .366 hitting and 31 blocks and 45 kills, .434 hitting and 24 blocks, respectively. As a freshman, Deedra Foss has also posted 126 assists, 27 digs and 13 blocks in 11 sets.

How to follow along
Video: Sunday’s match vs. UNLV will be televised nationally on the CBS Sports Network. Fans from all across the country will have live access to view the match. Additionally, fans can subscribe to purchase a video stream of Thursday’s match vs. Fresno State by going to

DirecTV: 613 (HD)
Comcast Digital: 412 | 846 (HD)
Dish Network: 152 (HD)

Live Stats: Online statistics will be provided through Gametracker. A link for live stats can be accessed through the volleyball schedule page on

Twitter: As always, CSU’s athletic department will tweet live updates and results from the CSU Rams Gameday Twitter account: @CSURamsGameday.

Top of the Mountain
In 13 seasons with the Mountain West, CSU has led the charge, winning nine regular-season conference championships, in addition to five MW tournament titles in 10 seasons. No other current MW team has taken home a regular-season conference title. Utah won or shared three crowns during its 12 seasons with the conference, while BYU won or shared a pair of championships. CSU has finished first in the regular-season standings each of the last three years.

Additionally, CSU has won more than 85 percent of its all-time MW matches (169-29, .854 winning percentage), far greater than any current or former opponent. On Sunday, the Rams will play in their 200th contest as members of the Mountain West. Entering the week, they hold impressive numbers both at home (93-7, .930 winning percentage) and on the road (76-22, .776).

The league’s all-time composite standings can be found on the following page.

Nine straight sets
The Rams have matched a season high with nine consecutive sets won, dating back to the first set vs. Nevada on Sept. 27. CSU also won nine straight sets to open the 2012 season. A win in the opening set vs. Fresno State will establish a new season high. A year ago, after suffering their first conference loss of the season, CSU swept seven consecutive opponents, totaling 21 sets in a row.

If the Rams can win on Thursday, it will also be their longest match winning streak of the season, and most since winning six consecutive before their season-ending loss to No. 3 Hawai’i in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Picking up a road win
CSU looks to reverse a trend that has spanned two road trips to open the 2012 season: The Rams have failed to win away from Moby Arena. CSU is 0-4 outside of Fort Collins, falling in two neutral-court matches and twice in an opponent’s venue. The Rams were 13-5 on the road last year, including 6-0 in neutral-site contests.

Good indication
Fans can get a good indication of how the match will end based off a few statistics. The Rams are 9-2 this season when recording more blocks than their opponent, while 0-3 when trailing. CSU is also 10-2 when holding a higher attack percentage, and 0-3 vice versa. When hitting above. 300, CSU is a perfect 6-0. The Rams are also 4-0 when holding their opponents to under .100 hitting. Last Friday vs. Wyoming, CSU’s defense limited Wyoming to -.028 hitting, a season low for an opponent.
Block Party
CSU has always been one of the best blocking teams in the country, and the team finished 2011 ranked third nationally with 3.15 blocks per set. In 15 matches to begin the 2012 campaign, CSU is averaging 2.88 blocks per set, and has recorded 15 or more team blocks four times already. In the most recent statistical report, CSU ranks 16th in blocks per set.

The Rams are 32-5 when leading their opposition in blocks since the beginning of last year, and have been outblocked just seven times during that period.

Avoiding the sweep
CSU has posted three-set wins seven times this season—including three in a row entering competition this week—and has yet to be swept. In fact, the Rams haven’t been swept since falling at Oklahoma on Aug. 29, 2011, a span of 41 matches. The streak is the second-longest in program history, trailing only a run of 57 contests during the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

Additionally, CSU hasn’t dropped the first two sets of a match since last season, when the Rams fell at TCU on Nov. 10. The stretch includes 22 consecutive matches, tied for seventh-longest in school annals. If the Rams can avoid falling behind 0-2 in both matches this weekend, the streak will reach 24, which would tie for the fourth-longest.

Early advantage
The Rams know that if they can win the first set, it puts them in good position to win the match. All-time under Head Coach Tom Hilbert, the Rams are 350-33 (.914) when winning the initial set, including 9-1 in 2012. Even more impressive, CSU is 313-4 (.987) under Hilbert when taking a 2-0 lead.

Dealin’ aces
The Rams dealt a season-high eight service aces against San Diego State on Sept. 29, and then followed that up with eight aces in their next match, on Oct. 5 vs. Wyoming. Both matches ended in three-set sweeps. Senior Izzy Gaulia posted four total aces, freshman Adrianna Culbert tallied a career-high three and Dana Cranston, also a senior, had a career-high eight, including six vs. San Diego State. It was the most by a Rams player since Jacque Davisson served up seven against UNLV on Nov. 1, 2008.

Win No. 10
With its win last Friday vs. Wyoming, CSU improved to 10-1 at home this season. As a program, the Rams have won at least 10 home matches each year dating all the way back to the 1995 season. The Rams still have five remaining home matches on their schedule, meaning they can finish as high as sixth in school history, with a .938 home winning percentage (their record would be 15-1). It would also mark the 10th time in program history that the Rams have dropped one or fewer home matches.

Already established as one of the program’s best blockers, senior Megan Plourde etched her name among the best on Sept. 2, recording her 500th career block. She is one of just three Rams to ever reach that milestone, joining Angela Knopf (630) and Mekana Barnes (571).

The senior hasn’t rested on the milestone, however, tallying more than 50 blocks in the eight matches since. Her second assisted block against Fresno State on Thursday will be the 519th of her career, putting her at second all-time in block assists (and just 28 behind the school’s leader, Angela Knopf). She needs just 20 total blocks to move into second place in that category.

At her current season average, she will become the school’s all-time blocking leader by the end of the regular season. More information on where Plourde, and other current Rams, rank in CSU’s record book can be found on Pages 8-9.

Also this weekend, senior Izzy Gaulia looks to make history by becoming the 10th Ram to reach quadruple digits in career digs. She currently sits at 988, just 11 away from matching 10th-place Angie Knox (1984-87), and 12 away from the

Gaulia, who already holds CSU’s single-season (508 in 2011) and single-match (39 vs. Oregon on Dec. 1, 2011) digs records, is on pace to finish in the top three in career digs. Additionally, her current career average of 2.98 digs per set would rank fourth.