Going into Thursday night’s game, CSU hadn’t lost to Air Force since 1982, and had swept the last 18 matches they have met — this one proved to be no exception, as the Rams picked up their sixth consecutive victory 3-0 over the Falcons 26-24, 25-22, 25-16.
“They’ve been very competitive and it’s always a very high level of volleyball,” Air Force libero Maiya Perich said. “They’re huge. Air Force isn’t a big team, so playing CSU is kind of intimidating, but after awhile it gets more competitive and more fun.”
It seemed as though Air Force would end CSU’s 49 consecutive set victories, as the Rams trailed for the majority of the opening set.
To add to visual frustration on coach Tom Hilbert’s face, his team stopped playing before the ball hit the ground on one play, and the Falcons made them pay for their early celebration.
“I knew the ball was up. I don’t understand why they thought it wasn’t,” Hilbert said. “That’s one of those things that happens that sets the tone for Air Force.”
Fortunately for Hilbert, it didn’t set the tone for his opposition. Instead, his team battled back to take the last three points of the set, leading them to a 26-24 victory after facing an Air Force set point.
The second set was another nail biter where every point counted.
Air Force’s Felicia Clement went off in the second, putting up 12 kills by the end of the set. Despite her performance, and Air Force having a better attacking percentage than CSU, the Rams still managed to squeak another set win out.
“We didn’t block very well against Felicia. We didn’t really block well against anybody actually,” Hilbert said. “We’re a tired group of players right now.”
After set two, the Rams were able to rest during the set break. They were also able to say what needed to be said to come back out and put the game away early.
“We were definitely focused,” Brieon Paige said. “We talked after halftime that we needed to start playing CSU volleyball and go back to the things that we’re good at.”
The final set featured none of the fight that was brought by the Falcons in the first two. CSU put up a .591 hitting percentage compared to Air Force’s .194. The Falcons managed to put up only 16 points before losing the last set.
“I think Air Force played worse to be honest,” Hilbert said. “My hat’s off to them in the first two sets; they competed.”
Volleyball Beat Reporter Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.