The CSU volleyball team’s attack is lethal.
And it can come from a number of different directions.
This season CSU is hitting .298 as a team, which ranks eighth highest in the country and have hit above the .300 mark in eight matches. Five different Rams have reached the double-digit mark in kills at some point this season.
Not surprisingly, Sanja Cizmic and Jasmine Hanna are leading the way on the outside. Cizmic is averaging 3.24 kills per set and is hitting .271. Hanna is at 2.83 kills per set and a .256 percentage.
Then at the other attacking positions, Alexandra Poletto is hitting .378 and Kirstie Hillyer .396 at the middle blocking positions. Freshman Olivia Nicholson is hitting .267 on the opposite outside.
It was apparent during the preseason that the attack would be a major strength for the Rams, but now that they are 16 matches and five conference matches into the season, it’s crystal clear that they have a good thing going offensively.
“We’re attacking at a high level,” head coach Tom Hilbert said. “There’s things we need to improve upon but we’re attacking the ball at a high level. I think we are improving which not every team improves the second half of the season and that’s a good season.”
And although it is the hitters and middles that are finishing off each point, usually with exclamation points, the effectiveness of the attack often centers around setter Katie Oleksak. The freshman is currently fourth in the nation, averaging 11.78 assists per set. In a match on Sept. 22, she recorded 59 assists, the highest total in a four-set match in CSU program history since the NCAA implemented the 25-point rally scoring system.
Oleksak has grown in her understanding of when to put the ball where and to who. And with the number of weapons the Rams have, getting each of them the amount of touches they need is not much of a challenge for her anymore. And she is learning that even if a hitter is having an off-night, keep feeding them the ball.
“Earlier in the year it might have been a challenge but right now it’s not,” Hilbert said. “She’s getting people the ball. We talked right before conference started about making sure that people don’t cool off. Sometimes if somebody’s not playing well and you get completely away from them they may never get it back…She can’t decide ‘I’m not connecting with someone’ and not set her. You have to continue to work through it and she knows that and she’s been doing a nice job of making that happen.”
But for Oleksak, her connections and chemistry with the hitters has already made for a formidable attack, and this should only increase as time goes on. And for right now, she’s pretty thrilled to have a variety of places to put the ball and know that it’ll turn into a point on the scoreboard more times than not.
“It’s just nice to have hitters that I can rely on at every position,” she said. “I think that helps spread out the offense and it makes it easier for them to get kills.”
Perhaps the potential of the offense was most on display Saturday evening in Las Vegas. The Rams frankly dominated UNLV in the first two sets. They hit .536 in the first set and .720 in the second while taking both sets in rather lopsided fashion. Of course, it’s unrealistic to believe they will hit like that often, but it did give the team a little taste of what can happen when they’re hitting on all cylinders.
“You can’t expect to play like that all the time,” Hilbert said. “Especially with a team this young, and it showed in the third set but it’s good to see. It shows a little bit of the future and lets them know they can play at a high level.”
Collegian Sports Reporter Michael Roley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @michael_roley