No.7 Colorado State volleyball took the first step toward defending their Mountain West title with a 3-1 win at Utah State (25-22, 25-20, 23-25 and 25-18). The Rams improved to 13-1 (1-0 Mountain West) while the Aggies fall to 4-7 (0-1).
“It’s tough to win on the road,” head coach Tom Hilbert said. “They were blocking really well. We survived it because we didn’t give them a lot of other points and as a result came out with a win that was tighter than the score may even indicate.”
The match came with less drama than the last time CSU visited Logan, when the Rams came back from 0-2 to win three straight sets. But Utah State did not make the first game of conference play easy for the Rams by pushing them to tight finishes in the first two sets before taking the third.
CSU came out reenergized in the fourth set to quiet the crowd and close out the match in decisive fashion. The Aggies rallied back from 20-9 in the fourth set to trim the score to 24-18 before a kill by Marlee Reynolds put the game away.
Hilbert said he was pleased with his team’s resiliency and did not make any adjustments after the third set, but that he did see areas where the Rams could improve going forward.
“Offensively we were flat and we need to get better there,” Hilbert said. “We shouldn’t get blocked 18 times no matter who’s doing it. That’s on us and we’ve got to get better.”
Reynolds led the Rams with 14 kills and true freshman Jasmine Hanna contributed 13 of her own. Kelsey Snider added nine kills with an efficient .318 hitting percentage. Acacia Andrews had a team-best nine blocks.
Utah State was led by Kaylie Kamalu (18 kills) and Rachel Orr (17) but CSU was able to limit their production down the stretch. Kaitlyn VanHoff and Elle Brainard led the Aggies with nine blocks each.
“We started scoring early and we made plays on their outside hitters, and that’s what we have to do,” Hilbert said. “Their outside hitters were just carrying that team. We did a good job on Rachel Orr.”
CSU travels to face Boise State in their next match on Saturday at 2 p.m. MT. The Rams will look to stay undefeated in conference play on their quest for a sixth consecutive Mountain West title.
“Everyone’s going to bring their A-game in this league. We’re the team to beat and we’ve got a giant target on our backs,” Hilbert said.
“You know that, and you prepare for it. You just realize no one is going to come out and play poorly. You won’t have any nights off.”
Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at email@example.com and on Twitter at @emccarthy22.