The pressure is on for the CSU volleyball team. With the start of the 2014 season right around the corner, the Rams have two days left of practice to tie up loose ends, not to mention just finalizing a starting lineup.
“Well we are trying to decide on our line-up more than anything else because you do not really know what your opponent is going to do,” head coach Tom Hilbert said. “These are the first matches of the year so from this stand point of preparing for them there is really not a whole lot of information we have.”
CSU opens the season with the Rams Volleyball Classic at Moby Arena Saturday in a double header against Virginia Commonwealth at 1 p.m. and UC Santa Barbara at 7 p.m. The Rams will finish out the weekend against Marquette Sunday at 1 p.m.
The first and only meeting between CSU and VCU came in 2010, in which the Rams defeated the Commodores in five sets on their home court. Sunday will be the first meeting in program history against Marquette.
“We are connecting really well and getting used to how we run our system,” senior setter Deedra Foss said. “The new players have adapted really well and really fast. In practice we have been working a lot on teaching new players our blocking system and our defense. We have been working a lot on set tempo a lot too.”
Without any new film or statistics from this weekends opponents, the Rams must be prepared for anything when stepping on to the court.
Last season the Rams defeated UC Santa Barbara 3-1 on the road during the Pepperdine Invitational. However, the match wasn’t as easy as it looked on paper. There were multiple ties and lead changes through the first four sets. Five Colorado State players had nine or more kills with Adrianna Culbert leading the team with 13.
“They are much better than last year,” Hilbert said of UC Santa Barbara. “They are returning a lot of players and when we played them last year their best player was out and she is back now. I expect them to be very good and I do not think there is a big delineation between them and Marquette, they are both good teams.”
VCU heads into this weekend with a young team. At the end of last season, VCU lost its libero, setter and outside hitter.
“They are international, they have a lot of foreign players so you do not know what to expect from them,” Hilbert said. “They were very good last year, they tailed off at the end of the year and their best player transferred to Wisconsin so their new players are going to have to fill some of that void.”
In order to begin their 2014 campaign on the right note, Colorado State will need to limit errors, penetrate opponents’ blocks and continue to strike the ball like last season. While it is important for the Rams to get off to a good start, Hilbert isn’t putting a number on the amount of wins he wants in the opening weekend.
“I would like to say that we would love to win all of our matches but really what it’s about is making us better, answering certain questions,” Hilbert said. “A couple years ago we went 0-3 in the opening weekend and won our conference. It’s not necessarily winning although I’m sure that the fans after last season would think ‘Oh, you got to win every game you play,’ but we don’t. We have to go out and figure out how we can put a lineup together that is efficient and effective so that we are ready to play the Mountain West. If we survive the first five weeks of the season we are going to be very tested.”
Tickets for this weekend’s matches are available for free at the Fum McGraw Ticket office with a student ID.
Collegian Sports Reporter Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @haleighhamblin.