Like any true contender and defending champion, CSU knows how to take a punch and counter.
The Rams lost set one 25-23 against Fresno State, but rallied to take the final three sets in a 3-1 in Saturday afternoon in Moby
“The real beauty of this is we won a conference match that was not a sweep, and I know that sounds weird,” CSU coach Tom Hilbert said. “We need to be tested competitively and to be able to persevere through that.”
During the third set the result didn’t look nearly as clear. CSU trailed 21-16 and looked on the verge of having to win the final two sets to salvage a victory.
The Rams battled back to tie the score at 25 and force a win-by-two scenario, which sent middle blocker Breion Paige to the service line since they were running low on subs.
Paige punched both over the net and gave CSU the win after a Fresno State attack error and Kaila Thomas kill.
“I was kind of freaking out in the beginning because everyone was talking and going crazy, I was just trying to stay calm,” Paige said. “I took a couple deep breaths, tried not to rush my serve and focused on staying tough and keeping it in.”
CSU blasted the Mountain West’s top team in terms of digs per game in the final three sets, registering 43 kills and hitting above .500 in two of the three.
The Rams set their season high in hitting percentage at .577 in set two only to break it in the decisive fourth set by hitting .583.
“You don’t do that without good setting,” Hilbert said.
Setter Deedra Foss finished with 47 assists and controlled the location of the ball expertly through the entire match.
Fresno State stayed in the match through challenging service pressure and 20 kills from sophomore Korrin Wild.
She also had three aces and continually challenged CSU’s blockers even after being blocked herself.
At times Wild would even point at middle blockers Megan Plourde and Breion Paige after a kill to make a statement.
“When we played at Fresno she was doing the same stuff. She was the momentum for their team and I think she brings energy and I think that’s just the way that she does it,” Plourde said. “I think she tries to get in your head. It’s just a kill that she’s getting, the way that she acts after that is just trying to get you more frustrated.”
CSU will embark on a three game road swing after playing the last two games in Moby, visiting in-state rivals Northern Colorado and Air Force and traveling to Boise State next week.
“What we have to do is not wear these guys out in practice next week, that’s going to be the big key,” Hilbert said. “What Northern Colorado brings is an interesting new twist. Playing them helps us with Boise State because they’re similar in the system they run.”
Assistant Sports Editor Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.