Tom Hilbert predicted CSU volleyball would have a tougher time against San Diego State in San Diego than Fort Collins, and Thursday night’s match made him seem almost clairvoyant.
The Rams lost the match 3-1, dropping the final three sets after a 26-24 victory in the first.
CSU came out firing to open the match with 19 kills in the first set, but could not sustain that lofty standard for the rest of the match primarily due to the strength of San Diego State’s defense and transition game.
“If we gave them an easy ball they punished us. That’s a weakness of ours, recovering in transition,” CSU coach Tom Hilbert said.
The Aztecs jumped out to 12-7 lead midway through the second set and never relinquished it due to five service errors by CSU, winning 25-20.
“That hurt us for sure. It’s hard to gain momentum in other people’s gyms and missing serves is something that will take it right away,” CSU senior outside hitter Dana Cranston said.
SDSU closed out the third set 26-24 with the match hanging in the balance after the break. The Aztecs led 25-24 after a kill by sophomore Michelle Waber, but CSU appeared to equalize the set with a kill by Breion Paige.
The referee called a ball handling error on Paige to give SDSU the set.
“It was probably a good call,” Hilbert said.
CSU had run out of gas by the fourth set. The Aztecs jumped out to a 14-4 lead and cruised to a 25-15 win to take the match.
“The end of the third set affected us a little bit because we were so close and we almost had it,” Cranston said. “We made a few weird errors and dug ourselves a hole and couldn’t dig ourselves out of it.”
Cranston lead the team with 16 kills in the match, and middle blockers Breion Paige and Megan Plourde both added 14.
Unlike previous road matches, CSU simply lost to a team that played better rather than losing focus and giving up extended point runs that kept it out of sets entirely.
SDSU simply played an outstanding defensive game with 74 digs and six total blocks while hitting an efficient .311 to improve to 6-3 in Mountain West play.
The loss drops CSU to 6-3 inside the conference and a tie for second place after UNLV’s 3-1 victory over New Mexico.
The Rams continue their road stretch Saturday with the team’s first ever trip to Reno to face Nevada. First serve is set for 8:00 pm MST.
Assistant Sports Editor Kyle Grabowski can be reached at email@example.com.