Colorado State’s women’s volleyball team has been extraordinarily consistent, in a good way.
The team has not been overwhelmed by any opponents. They may lose games to some of the top programs in the nation, but there is no doubting that the Rams belong on the same floor.
In 2015 the Colorado State squad again stood above the rest of the Mountain West, capturing the teams seventh consecutive Mountain West title.
While finishing seasons on top of the Mountain West is nothing new for the program seeing that since the 2000 season the Rams’ volleyball program has won 13 Mountain West championships, had 15 players named to the AVCA All-America team and reached the NCAA Volleyball Tournament 16 consecutive times, the 2015 season was full of accolades.
Along with the CSU’s Conference championship in 2015, multiple CSU Rams were recognized for their individual achievements.
Four players were selected to the 18-player All-Mountain West postseason team. Adrianna Culbert, Alex Reid, Acacia Andrews and Alexandra Poletto all earned this honor with Jaime Colaizzi as an honorable mention.
The recently graduated Adrianna Culbert—who now plays beach volleyball for the University of South Carolina—earned the award of Mountain West Player of the Year in a unanimous decision made by 11 of the Mountain West Conference head coaches. Culbert joins nine other Rams to have earned that honor.
While leading the Rams to a conference championship, Culbert tallied up nine double-doubles, one of which being the first ever quadruple-double in the Mountain West Conference where she had 10 kills, 11 blocks, 13 digs and 20 assists against San Jose State.
2016 CSU graduate Alex Reid took home the award of Newcomer of the Year after transferring in for her senior year from Long Beach State. Reid is the second Ram to win this award. During the Ram’s championship season, Reid earned seven double-doubles.
Creating such a winning atmosphere causes players from all around the country to come to Fort Collins and join a program that is dominant in its own conference, and is constantly looking to improve under head coach Tom Hilbert’s tutelage. Potential players are given the chance to see players like Culbert, Reid, Andrews, Colaizzi and many others succeed here and it makes them feel as if they can do the same.
Freshman setter Katie Olesak comes from a Arizona Storm club team that saw players go to the likes of the University of Nebraska and University of Southern California. While Colorado State is an extremely successful program, they are not Nebraska or USC. CSU offers something different, and that’s what attracts players. They want to show that Colorado State can contend with the best.
“Being at a smaller school [like Colorado State], I really want to prove that we can compete against bigger teams,” Olesak said. “When Texas comes (Sept. 9) we can compete against them, we are capable of that.”
Colorado State may not have the same flash as many other top programs, but what matters most is winning, and the Rams do an awful lot of that.
McKenna Thornlow, a junior transfer student form the University of North Texas, was drawn to CSU because of the volleyball culture that has been created in Fort Collins.
“I always knew that CSU was a big volleyball town,” Thornlow said. “Everybody knew the games, everybody went to the games, they are big crowds and they win, they win every year…I was excited to be around people who are competitive and want to win.”
With the volleyball legacy that Colorado State has created for itself, it gives something for players to strive towards. Of course no player wants be a part of a team that puts a stop to a winning tradition, but thats not what its all about. The players are attracted to come play for a school that will compete against everyone, to come play in a town that shows passion for a winning program. There is pressure to perform, but at the end of the day, there can only be as much pressure as the team puts on themselves.
Every season shapes the legacy upheld by the CSU volleyball team. Don’t expect that winning tradition to vanish any time soon.
Collegian Sports Reporter Jack Starkebaum can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org