No one could have predicted the 2013 volleyball season to end the way it did. Down two sets to Cal State Northridge early on, it was a make it or break it comeback game for Colorado State.
Neck and neck in every set, the Rams and Matadors battled each bump, set and spike to the court’s floor. While CSU forced a fifth set after dominating CS–Northridge in the third and fourth set, it was not enough. The Rams fell to the Matadors (15-25,21-25,25-13,25-18,12-15).
“It was a good year but I was shocked over losing the first set we started playing very well, and getting better in set two,” head coach Tom Hilbert said.
Late errors in the final points of the match proved to be the difference. Spikes were unable to reach the court floor and blocks only pushed the ball back onto its own side.
CS Northridge head coach Jeff Stork knew the matchup against a Colorado State team which went nearly undefeated would be competitive, hence the five-set thriller that went down on Thursday night in the USC Galen Center.
“You’ve got to beat somebody good to win the thing and we’re playing one match at a time,” Stork said. “Yeah they’re good, but they’ve lost before and they can lose again.”
On paper, it could have been thought the Rams were leading the Matadors by several points. With a greater blocking percentage and hitting percentages for most of the set, CSU found itself unable to get the last word.
“When we went into the locker room, I told them we need to do better defensively,” Hilbert said. “It is an unfortunate thing to happen to this team because they are a great group of kids and played hard.”
Despite the offensive contribution from Kelsey Snider and Michelle Lawrence, CS–Northridge was right there to answer the attack. Snider collected 16 kills and Lawrence led the team with 18.
“The big thing was, let’s go back and be an aggressive serving team and see what that gets us,” Hilbert said. “Once we started getting momentum that really helped us and we started hitting better.”
The Rams had only faced a fifth set three times going into Thursday’s match. The first two came against UNLV and Utah State, where CSU pulled out the victory and the other falling its first game of the season to San Diego State.
The Matadors advance to play another match on Friday, their competition will be decided by the winner on the No. 6 University of Southern California and New Hampshire match which took place following their match with CSU and after time of print.
“We’re very excited to be in this situation and have this opportunity. I thought the team played extremely well when it mattered,” Stork said.
The CSU loss against CS Northridge brings the most successful season in program history to the end –– bittersweet in the eyes of the CSU fans, players and coaches. The Rams ended the 2013 28-2 overall.
“Obviously, you don’t want to go out first round your senior season,” Samantha Peters said. “But I think these girls played great especially Kelsey (Snider). We fought how we wanted to, just not at the right times. If we started stronger we would have definitely had a better outcome for tonight.”
Volleyball Beat Reporter Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.