Saturday afternoon was exactly what the CSU volleyball team needed to get back on track.
After losing in five-sets to San Jose State on Thursday, a match where the Rams cruised past the Spartans in the first two sets before dropping the final three, a 25-20, 25-23, 25-22 sweep over Fresno State on the road was precisely what the doctor ordered.
CSU (14-6, 8-1 MW) rebounded with a rather controlling victory where the Bulldogs only led at three different instances. The Rams kept the critical errors to a minimum and closed out sets effectively in winning their eighth conference match of the season.
“We played consistently,” coach Tom Hilbert said afterward. “We did not make many give-away mistakes and that was the key to winning the match.”
Sanja Cizmic was huge for the Rams. The junior from Split, Croatia buried 12 total kills, including seven in the first set to go along with five digs and two blocks. Cizmic had the Bulldogs number this year. In the earlier matchup with Fresno State at home on Sept. 22 Cizmic tallied 18 kills.
Most importantly, Cizmic also converted all three set-winning kills for the Rams.
“It set the tone for this entire match the way she played,” Hilbert said. “She had seven kills in that first set which I was pleased with but I was also pleased she closed it out for us three times.”
Alexandra Poletto added 10 more kills to go along with four blocks. Paulina Hougaard-Jensen chipped in eight kills while getting the start with freshman hitter Olivia Nichoslon recovering from a concussion sustained in Thursday’s match against San Jose State.
Katie Oleksak dished out 35 assists and recorded seven digs while libero Cassidy Denny led the backrow effort with 13 digs.
With Cizmic hitting hot in the first set, it was imperative that Oleksak keep giving her the ball while also striking a balance of not setting her too much. As a result, multiple people were able to remain involved in the attack. And just like much of the conference season, the offense remained balanced.
“That’s what she’s doing,” Hilbert added.” We did have balance in our offense and she went to her (Cizmiz) when she needed to.”
The Rams jumped out to an 8-3 lead early in the first set, and would lead the entire way in taking the first stanza, 25-20, in large part due to Cizmic’s seven kills and a .353 team hitting percentage.
In the second set, CSU trailed the Bulldogs 16-15 at one point, but rattled off a 5-1 run to claim a 20-17 advantage before holding off a late Fresno rally and taking a 2-0 advantage into the intermission.
The Rams only trailed once in the third set and held Fresno State to a .098 hitting percentage while recording three team blocks.
CSU will complete their third and final match of this three-match road swing against rival Wyoming in the Border War on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. MT in Laramie.
Collegian sports reporter Michael Roley can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @michael_roley