When fighting through close matches, the Colorado State volleyball team finds a way to win. After battling back and forth against the Utah State Aggies, the Rams’ won their third straight match to open Mountain West play, sweeping the Aggies 3-0 (26-24, 25-20, 25-18).
Colroado State entered the first set getting a feel for their opponent and settling into a comfortable offensive rhythm. As the match progressed, CSU continued to gain confidence, winning each successive set by a larger margin.
The first point of the night was lost on an attack error by Sanja Cizmic, but she was able to quickly respond to pick up the next point on a heavy kill. Utah State continued to slowly build a small 12-7 lead. This lead was quickly combatted by the Rams, as they went on a 5-0 run.
With the Rams serving for set point, Kristie Hillyer and Katie Oleskak formed an intimidating wall, forcing an attack error for Utah State to take the first set win 26-24. CSU finished the first set with 6 errors to Utah State’s 7, a difference that played a major role in deciding the set.
The Rams were able to express a little more dominance in the next set and began to build a stronger offensive attack. Katie Oleskak, who recently earned Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week and leads the MW with 11.58 assists per game, began to distribute the ball and took control of the offense.
After fighting a close set up to a tie score 14-14, the Rams broke away with a lead and went on to take the second set 25-20.
The third set followed the same familiar pattern as the others; a close score with several lead changes. However, in this set the Rams gained control of the set earlier after an 11-11 lead. The offense continued to effectively strike, securing the match victory and sweep with a 25-18 third set win.
At the end of the night, Oleskak earned 40 assists and had effectively distributed the ball. Kristie Hillyer (13), Sanja Cizmic (12), and Jasmine Hanna (12) all tallied up kills in the double digits.
“I think offensively we are playing pretty well. I like the way our players are attacking,” head coach Tom Hilbert said. “I think we can use a little help blocking defensively.”
Even though the Rams have Alexandra Polletto and Hillyer ranked one and two for blocking in the Mountain West, they still have room to improve. Hilbert recognizes that.
“Because you block well, you create situations where the other team has to get around that block,” Hilbert said. “And they usually hit manageable balls around that block. We aren’t positioned to make plays on those manageable balls and that the problem we are having right now.”
This was the Rams’ first game on the road, games which Hilbert recognizes as important games in conference play.
“I think we did some serving passing stuff really well,” Hilbert said. “That’s what teams struggle with on the road and we didn’t struggle with that today.”
CSU will continue playing on the road against New Mexico on Oct. 6, at 6:30 p.m.
Collegian sports reporter Jack Starkebaum can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org