Video by CTV Sports
A New York Times best-selling author could not have written a better conclusion to Saturday’s match at Moby Arena.
With a combined blocked from Adrianna Culbert and Alexandra Poletto, the No.9 Colorado State volleyball advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009 with a 3-2 victory (25-22, 25-21, 23-25, 24-26, 16-14) over archrival No. 19 Colorado.
“It was a fantastic match in front of an unbelievable crowd in a great venue,” head coach Tom Hilbert said. “In set five, we are down a little bit, we are out of time outs, and at that point we turn it over to the players. This is the happiest and greatest match I have been apart of since I have been coaching here in 18-years. This is a great moment for CSU and I am so happy with these guys.”
Headed into Saturday’s match, Hilbert mentioned how athletic this CU team was and how pivotal it would be for the Rams to counter it with defense. Not only did CSU have 62 digs and 9.5 blocks on the night, senior Marlee Reynolds took off to have the best game of her career with 18 kills hitting .364.
“I thought Marlee Reynolds had the best match of her career and I thought it was extremely important when you play in the position she is in,” Hilbert said. “She played aggressively, solidly, got a lot of kills and didn’t make mistakes. It was fantastic.”
Reynolds got emotional during the postgame press conference when talking about the atmosphere and the crowd support that helped them defeat CU. Saturday was Reynolds last time playing a game at Moby Arena, and she made it count.
Alongside Reynolds, freshman Jasmine Hanna and Poletto continued to be a consistent assets to the Rams. With 13 kills from Hanna and 11 from Poletto, CSU will be in good hands not only this season, but for a long while after.
“It makes me so excited,” Hanna said. “It makes me excited for the future as well, excited for my teammates, it is just … I can’t even put into words.”
Despite CU coming back from an 0-2 deficit forcing a decisive fifth set, the Rams clinched the title as the best collegiate volleyball team in the state of Colorado with Saturday;s win. Senior outsider hitter Taylor Simpson carried the Buffs with a career high of 32 kills on 62 swings, hitting an impressive .426 on the night.
“I want to point out the strength and perseverance and how proud I am of my players. A lot of teams would go down 0-2 and they probably couldn’t get themselves back in it, this group of players did.” CU head coach Liz Kritza said. “That’s probably one of the most interesting, exciting, tightly contested matches thus far in the tournament.”
Simpson had support from outsider hitter Alexis Austin with 12 kills but could not get enough with Austin racking up nine errors on the attack. CU gave away 14 points in the match on service errors, seven on serve receive and 24 attack, 14.5 unforced.
“There was no point where I thought were not in this,” Hilbert said. “No point and that is a talented team. We had no answer for Taylor Simpson but were still able to survive. We just kept on grinding.”
In front of 6,011 fans in Moby Arena, CSU improved to 15-1 at home and 15-4 against CU at home as well improving to 4-0 against the Buffs in the NCAA Tournament. Under Hilbert, the Rams have a 47-0 record in Moby Arena against all four Colorado teams.
CSU will have a quick turn around for maybe its toughest matchup of the season. CSU will take on No. 2 Texas on Friday in Minneapolis though time is still to be determined.
Collegian Sports Reporter Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @haleighhamblin.
Photos by Elliot Foust