If there was any doubt about the Colorado State women’s volleyball team after their heartbreaking, five-set loss to San Diego State Wednesday night, it was quickly erased Friday as the Rams rolled to a dominant three-set sweep (25-15, 25-9, 25-21) of UNLV. Just 48 hours removed from a loss that ended their undefeated regular season, as well as a school record 27-game win streak, the Rams dominated at the net once again led by freshman Michelle Lawrence with 11 kills and senior Sam Peters with 10 in likely her final match in front of the Moby Arena crowd. For Peters, as well as fellow seniors Michelle Smith and Cayla Broadwater, this win was the cherry on top of a regular-season that will no doubt go down in the record books.
“I don’t think it matter who we played tonight. That was a rough loss on Wednesday and we wanted to come back and get a win on Senior Night. We have such a great team behind us and we weren’t going to let anything stand in the way of that tonight,” Peters said.
Playing with a sense of relief and looseness not seen yet this year, Tom Hilbert’s squad rolled to a 25-15 win in Set 1. Behind three kills apiece from Dri Culbert, Sam Peters, Marlee Reynolds, and Kelsey Snider, CSU hit an impressive .483 with 16 kills and only two errors on 29 total attacks. Not to be outdone, defensive specialists Jaime Colaizzi and Cassidy Denny combined for 11 digs to limit the Rebels to only 11 kills in 37 attacks.
In likely their most dominant set so far this season, the Rams held UNLV to only 7 kills on 37 attacks en route to 25-9 shellacking of the Rebels in Set 2. For the first time all season, CSU held an opponent under double-digits and did so while limiting the Rebels to -.027 attacking percentage. Marlee Reynolds again paced the Rams with 5 more kills while Peters and Snider chipped in three each to lead CSU to a .469 attacking percentage while recording no hitting errors in a set for the first time since their match November 2nd against Utah State.
“I think our ball-handling and efficiency has been the signature this of this team,” Hilbert said. “It’s not like we have one superstar player that’s getting kills against double and triple-blocks, we just have five good hitters, good ball handling, and a great setter, and that’s why we’re winning.”
Despite falling behind in early in Set 3, the Rams turned it around and fought to a 25-21 win to complete the sweep. In the final frame it was Lawrence and Peters who took over for CSU, combining for 11 of the Rams’ 17 kills. Again CSU’s defense came up big forcing UNLV to hit only .047 with 7 kills on 43 total attacks.
Although the fairy-tale ending of finishing the regular-season undefeated was ruined Wednesday night, players and coaches alike couldn’t wipe the grins off of their faces as they celebrated their fifth consecutive Mountain West title at mid-court after Friday’s match.
“Who knew at the beginning of this season that we would go 28-1 and win the Mountain West title with four games left to play. This is a pretty unexplainable experience,” Lawrence said.
CSU now awaits their seeding and location for the NCAA tournament, both of which will be announced Sunday during the NCAA Volleyball Selection Show.
Sports reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kpopecollegian.