(Highlights by Olivia Landis/CTV11)
It may have been closer than the Rams would have liked, but the fans in Moby Arena got quite the show.
No. 19 Colorado State (9-3, 2-0 MW) overcame some early struggles to defeat Boise State (8-6, 0-2 MW) in a five-set thriller Saturday by scores of 19-25, 28-26, 22-25, 25-21 and 15-12.
“This was a gutsy, gutsy win for my team,” CSU head coach Tom Hilbert said. “We needed it. We need to know how we can perform in a situation like this one. I’m very pleased with the competitiveness.”
After not losing a single Mountain West match in Moby last season, the Rams found themselves in an unfamiliar predicament when BSU took the first set. CSU struggled with its digs and miscommunications on second touches.
BSU kept the pressure on in the second. The Broncos had a set point, but a service error by Sarah Baugh kept the Rams alive. The teams traded pointed late, with a dump by Crystal Young eventually tipping the set in CSU’s favor and evening things up at 1-1.
“That second-set was insane,” Hilbert said.
The Broncos were not deterred though, as they responded in the third. CSU went up 17-16 after a 5-0 run, but BSU came back with a 5-0 run of its own to go take a 21-17 lead. After reclaiming momentum, BSU finished off the set to go up 2-1.
With their backs against the wall, the Rams showed no signs of quitting. After recording just five blocks in total over the first three sets, CSU came up with five blocks in the fourth to finally quell some of the Broncos’ rhythm at the net. Acacia Andrews assisted on seven in addition to her one solo block.
“During the whole entire match, (the coaches) really stressed getting over,” Andrews said as her coach laughed next to her.
“It was mentioned about every other breath,” Hilbert added in regards to the blocking. “I thought it was huge, especially on their pin players.”
Hilbert took the blame for not preparing better to deal with BSU’s hitters.
“They are very good offensively,” Hilbert said. “We did a pretty decent job on (Sierra) Nobley, but the two middles (Maddy O’Donnell and Kaitlyn Oliver) really hurt us. And (Sabryn) Roberts hurt us because we schemed away from her. … She ended up being better than we thought.”
Nobley led BSU with 27 kills. The other three aforementioned Broncos all finished with double digits in kills as well.
But the Rams were able to stave them off and force a fifth set, thanks in large part to a clutch block late in the fourth by Adrianna Culbert. The senior recorded her fourth triple-double of the season, finishing with 13 kills, 30 assists and 10 digs, tying Angela Knopf’s CSU career record. Culbert also set the MW single-season record for triple-doubles, and tied the career mark.
In the deciding fifth set, BSU went up 8-6, but the Rams would rally. A kill by Alex Reid finally sealed the match in CSU’s favor. Reid led the Rams with 21 kills, a new career-high.
“Battling point-for-point, and then at the end winning, and just competing really hard, I think it shows us what we can do,” Culbert said.
Hilbert credited more precise defense with turning the match in CSU’s favor.
“We were giving up sloppy attacks early in the match,” Hilbert said. “And we didn’t give those up late. And they hit some unforced errors because of that, because we got a couple of blocks. … Nobley’s error (late in the fifth set) was big, and that was because (Culbert) was lined up perfectly.”
It is rare that the Rams go five sets in Moby, but Andrews said that they were never stunned – not after dropping the first set, or after going down 2-1.
“We went in knowing that it’s going to be a really good match, and we didn’t lose heart,” Andrews said.
No. 19 CSU returns to action Thursday at 7:30 p.m. when they take on Nevada in the Rams’ first road match of MW play.
Collegian Sports Editor Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @emccarthy22.