If there was a point in any season to expect a match to go in your favor, Saturday would have been it for Colorado State volleyball.
Throughout the season the Rams have overcome five-set comebacks, clinched red zone rallies and an undefeated season in and outside of the conference. Until round two against Utah State, it looked as if the Mountain West was no match for CSU.
In conference play, the Rams have dropped nine sets in the 12 games played, three of which were forced to a fifth set. Headed Saturday’s the match, No. 9 CSU knew there was a lot more at risk than a loss on its record.
“I think that if we can keep playing like this then when we play a tough team, it will be good competition,” setter Deedra Foss said. “Thinking we’re the underdogs and not expecting to win is what we need to be thinking.”
When the Rams stepped onto the court, three sets stood between them and accomplishing the best start in program history. A light shinning bright at the end of the match for CSU was dim as the Rams quickly fell to the Aggies powerful start.
The Rams found themselves battling to survive after dropping set one (20-25) and two (21-25). The two set deficit marked the first for the Rams since Nov. 2 2011 when it over came to defeat No. 5 Nebraska.
Headed into the break, Hilbert expressed motivation to his team.
“I told them that this is another chapter to our season, and that we can’t control how they play, we just control how we play. I told them, ‘Let’s go out and try and be good and do it with composure. We’re in unfamiliar territory being down 0-2, but we’re still the same team,” Hilbert said.
That same team Hilbert referred to came out to win set three (25-18) as the Rams held the Aggie attack to a .000 percentage.
The Rams continued to prevail in set four on an late 22-19 lead which became compromised when the Aggies won the next five of six points. Utah State was in position to win, match-point Aggies and the Rams were down 23-24. Off the swing of Kelsey Snider, the Rams earned the final three points to win 27-25. For the third time on the season, it was a must with first to 15 for CSU.
It was all business for CSU with an early jump to 5-4, 8-4 and game point 14-8 before the Rams sealed its best start in program history.
CSU improved to (21-0, 12-0 MW) while Utah State fell to (15-8, 8-4 MW).
Saturday’s match against Utah State came down to the competition level the MW will pose against CSU in the remaining games of the season. All teams are looking to even the playing field with a win, while the Rams are forced to fight back and overcome any tricks opposing teams will have up their sleeve.
“I sit back sometimes in awe of this group of players and the things they continue to do in these tough situations,” Hilbert said. “I don’t think this is me as a coach. I think this particular group has character, and just have it. They have a magical way of competing and doing well in end games. That’s just these kids, they’re great. I told them at the end of the game that it was kind of a magical night.”