Tom Hilbert finally got the match he was waiting for all season, a three set win where his team had to close out every set.
The CSU volleyball team won on the road for the first time this year, defeating Mountain West-leading UNLV 3-0 in Las Vegas on Sunday.
The Rams lost their first five games away from Moby Arena before finally breaking through against the Rebels.
“We needed this kind of performance in somebody else’s gym to show we can do it,” CSU coach Tom Hilbert said.
CSU never lead by more than four points in any of the sets, which forced the team to perform well in the endgame of all three, which the Rams had struggled with earlier in the season.
UNLV opened the third set with a 3-0 run after CSU won the first two sets, but the Rams responded with a 5-0 run when trailing 9-11 and took the set 25-23 to win the match.
“Staying patient was the big thing. We knew they were going to be fired up and come back with everything they had,” CSU senior outside hitter Dana Cranston said.
Both teams sided out efficiently in the match, leading to a high number of rotations through their lineups in each set.
“You have to be playing great to win a set like that,” Hilbert said. “Our passing and offense was as good as its been.”
Cranston and fellow senior Breion Paige anchored CSU both on attack and the block. Cranston finished with 16 kills, four digs, and six blocks while Paige had 10 kills and eight blocks while hitting .625.
“It’s about time that we stepped up, we’re seniors and we’re supposed to lead this team,” Paige said. “This is what we’re going to be doing from here on out.”
UNLV was firing on all cylinders offensively as well, hitting .243 for the match with 44 kills. Junior outside hitter Sekola Falemaka finished with 16 kills and junior middle blocker Madeline Westman had 12.
But the Rebels only had two blocks compared to CSU’s 11.
“A large part of it was we were communicating about the hitters we wanted to shut down and then executing our moves,” Paige said.
UNLV entered the match leading the Mountain West at 5-1, and after the loss the Rebels will remain in first but tied with Fresno State at 5-2.
CSU improves to 4-2 in conference play, which will put them in second place with 10 conference games remaining.
“We knew that this week was going to be really hard, and this is the best way we could have come out of the weekend,” Cranston said. “We not only got a road win, but got it while playing at an extremely high level.”
Assistant Sports Editor Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.