To be successful in any collegiate sport, it is important to have a solid foundation. With statistics backing the accomplishments of the CSU volleyball team in its 20-plus win seasons along with consecutive NCAA appearances, the Rams’ foundation lies in the hands of head coach Tom Hilbert.
It takes experience, motivation and talent to continuously strive towards the best season a team can have. The strong season the Rams aim for is to win games and be a top competitor in the Mountain West conference.
Even at the end of the 2013 season, Hilbert pushed his team to play with the mentality of the underdog. While opponents were aware of the skill, talent and ability of CSU volleyball, there were to be no guarantees that last season would be a dominating season.
When the Rams took the court, it was one serve, one set and one point at time. Do not think going into a game that it is a walk in the park or that because a team has an 1-12 record that it will be a three set sweep. Everyone was equal at first serve.
This mentality won them games — 28 to be exact.
The humble mind of Hilbert and the players ability to roll with each practice, tournament and game at a time was its greatest asset. They didn’t think about making the winning point on a zone kill, it would come naturally through hard work in practice.
And for this team over the past five years, at least, it’s come natural to the players.
Each year the Rams lose players to transfer or graduation, and each year the players that take the court fill the holes and then some. With four starting seniors gone at the start of the fall 2013 season, everyone stepped up.
From middle blockers Samantha Peters and Kelsey Snider, outside hitters Marlee Reynolds and Michelle Lawrence and libero Jamie Collaizi, just to name a few, the Rams went onto the best start in program history as well as its 19th consecutive NCAA appearance.
Each year Hilbert recruits and works with players not only to find their perfect fit on the team, but also finds players that will take this program to the next level. With three top players from all across the United States and Croatia already signed for the 2014 season, Hilbert has set up what is expected to be another season of competitive volleyball.
While CSU is filling holes on the court for the second season in a row, the team has begun practice to prepare for the start of the season in five months. In the upcoming scrimmages and practices, CSU will be targeting on serving, serve receive but not limited to making a couple tweaks on the offense and defense.
At the start of the spring practices and the first game of the fall season, there is pressure to be the same Mountain-West-dominating team. While a team can not be 100 percent every season, there does need to be room for rebuilding, Hilbert takes away what is called a rebuilding year and gives up history.
My hat goes off to Hilbert and his ability to come back each season with new, as well as returning, players and turn it into a winning team that fights to the last point on the court.
For anyone out there who has not been a head coach of a top volleyball team in the country, it is a lot harder than your Friday chemistry test.
Here’s to the future of Rams volleyball and another season led by the foundation of CSU, Hilbert.
I do not know where this program would be without you.
Collegian Assistant Sports Reporter Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @haleighhamblin.