The Rams lost their Mountain West opener to New Mexico 3-2 Thursday night in Albuquerque, N.M.
CSU jumped out to a dominating start, winning the first set 25-10 and the first two sets overall.
“Overall in all areas we were excelling. We were passing really good and were able to block them,” senior middle blocker Megan Plourde said. “Our game plan was to focus on (Chantale Riddle) and we pretty much shut her down.”
New Mexico returned the favor in the third set, winning 25-11 and holding the Rams to negative hitting percentage.
“They essentially were keeping a lot of rallies alive. We’d block balls, they’d cover it. They outplayed us in all of the ball handling aspects of the game,” CSU coach Tom Hilbert said. “Our outside hitters weren’t getting good kill percentages, and made a lot of unforced errors.”
CSU could not overcome seven hitting errors in the last set and lost 15-9.
“We kind of lost focus a little bit. They were going on some long point runs,” Plourde said. “They had a lot of the momentum and we were trying to battle and get it back.”
It was CSU’s fourth consecutive road loss and the Rams’ first defeat in a Mountain West opener in more than half a decade.
Freshman outside hitter Alijah Gunsaulus lead New Mexico with 14 kills and tied for second on the team with 13 digs.
“She’s a defensive specialist they moved to the outside because of injury. She killed us,” Hilbert said. “We blocked her a lot, but they covered the block.”
Megan Plourde lead the team with 13 kills and 11 blocks, but couldn’t stop New Mexico’s flood of points on her own.
“A middle can’t get you out of those situations when you don’t pass,” Hilbert said.
Once the momentum started to shift away from CSU, the Rams could not steady the game again.
“The heartbeat of our team started going up at that point, and we were very uncomfortable,” Hilbert said. “But these are college athletes. They have to learn to do that. We have to be better competitors than we were tonight.”
CSU will play its Mountain West home opener against Nevada next Thursday at 7 p.m.
“One thing is for certain–we have to have better outside hitting,” Hilbert said. “I don’t know who it’s going to be. We just have to find someone who can do it.”
Assistant Sports Editor Kyle Grabowski can be reached at email@example.com.