(Highlights by Olivia Landis and Grace Reader/CTV11)
It’s a good thing the match will not count toward their record because the Rams had no answer for Shanghai Eastbest & Lansheng. The Chinese team swept No. 19 Colorado State in three sets Monday in an exhibition game at Moby Arena.
“I’m happy that team is not in our conference,” CSU head coach Tom Hilbert joked after the match.
A kill on the very first point of the match by Jie Yang let the Rams know they were in for a tough one, but Alex Reid and Acacia Andrews answered with a block on the next to show that they meant business as well.
For a while, the teams looked evenly matched with CSU taking a 11-9 lead in the first set. But right when the Rams were starting to find a rhythm, Shanghai E&L responded with a 6-0 run to seize momentum. The Chinese team went on to win an exciting first set 25-22.
“In the first set, I was very pleased with the way we played,” Hilbert said. “We didn’t win that set but we played it real cleanly. We served the ball well and we disrupted them a little bit.”
The Rams allowed 19 kills in the first set. Hilbert said he can’t remember the last time a team recorded that many in one set against CSU.
Shanghai E&L really took over in the second, taking the set 25-12 and dominating the Rams in a way you will rarely see at Moby.
“I didn’t like the way our team responded competitively starting in the second set,” Hilbert said.
The Rams got back on track a bit in the third, but were still no match for their Chinese counterparts. Shanghai E&L put CSU away 25-17 in the third set to seal the exhibition match.
“I remember watching the Chinese team come and play here in 2011, and they were extremely athletic,” senior libero Jaime Colaizzi said of a previous exhibition match against Tianjin Bridgestone. “So, I was definitely expecting a really tough match. These kids are crazy athletic and really talented, and they don’t make a lot of errors.”
She agreed that the resiliency was disappointing, but that it was a great experience nonetheless.
“I think we should respond a little better than we did, but it’s definitely good to play those kinds of teams because we need that in order to grow,” Colaizzi said.
That match did have its bright spots, such as Alex Reid’s team-best 11 kills, or Alexandra Poletto’s eight kills on a team-high .368 hitting percentage. However, the Rams struggled with the Chinese team’s length and blocking at the net for the most part. CSU hit just .121 percent as a team.
“They’re very good blockers,” Reid said. “They’re very efficient. We definitely had a hard time getting some kills just because they were always there. They have great footwork in their block and they’re just a really good team.”
Reid had played against another Chinese professional team in Zhejiang last year when she was still at Long Beach State. Just like then, she said that she appreciated the opportunity to play against a team that brings a completely different culture.
Colaizzi agreed, but added that it’s always exciting to play against aggressive teams that bring a new look, no matter where they come from.
“Regardless of whether it counts towards your record, it’s super fun to play teams that come at you swinging,” Colaizzi said.
Despite having coached against numerous international teams in his 17 previous seasons at CSU, playing against Shanghai E&L was still a unique experience that he will cherish.
“I’ve done some coaching in some international trips before, and we played the Tianjin team back in 2011,” Hilbert said. “It’s unique, and you learn. I learn as a coach every time I go through something like this. You begin to realize how different some teams are, how good some teams are.”
The Rams begin Mountain West play when they host Utah State (4-10) Thursday at 7 p.m. in Moby Arena.
Collegian Sports Editor Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @emccarthy22.