The Colorado State volleyball team finds itself in a bit of an unfamiliar position after Wednesday night’s showdown match against Boise State.
The Rams are now in second place in the conference standings after dropping a tight, ultra-competitive match, 25-23, 27-29, 10-25, 25-13, 15-10 in a thrilling five sets in Boise, ID. And with it, CSU’s pursuit of their eighth consecutive MW title took a major hit.
It was a heated and intense match between the top two teams in the conference, just the way a match with the implications that this one had as far as determining the conference’s winner should go. But it was the Broncos who took down the Rams in a match where momentum shifted as unpredictably as the Colorado weather.
With the win, Boise State (23-7, 14-2 MW) now stands alone atop the MW standings, and in prime position to bring home the conference title and the coveted automatic NCAA tournament berth that comes with it.
Both teams will finish the season with common opponents. Boise State plays at Wyoming on Friday, and will most likely clinch the conference crown with a win over the Cowgirls before playing Air Force in the season finale next week.
Meanwhile, the Rams (19-8, 13-3 MW) will play Air Force, who sits at the bottom of the league, on Saturday before finishing up with Wyoming next Tuesday. Historically, the MW has been a one-bid league in the NCAA tournament.
Jasmine Hanna hit a rocket-high .405 for the match, notching 20 kills on 42 swings. Kirstie Hillyer was behind her with 11 on 28 attempts while Sanja Cizmic added nine kills on 39 swings.
Sierra Nobley had 21 kills for Boise State on an eye-startling 55 attempts. Maddy O’Donnell chipped in 17 while hitting .500 on the night as the Broncos had four players record double-digits in kills.
Boise State, who came into the match leading the MW in digs, out-dug the Rams 74-64. Libero Cassidy Denny led the Rams with 19. Hillyer also added five aces, two of which sealed set wins for the Rams.
Boise State came out strong in the first set, jumping out to a 17-10 lead at one point before CSU climbed their way back into it. The Rams would cut it to as close as 23-22 before Nobley, who tallied eight kills in the set, spiked the final two into the ground to nail down the first set win.
Things looked to be headed the same way in the second set. Boise State was ahead 17-11 and the Rams’ chances appeared relatively grim. But, CSU then went on an 8-1 run and retook the lead 19-18 before the set would eventually head to extras.
It was there where the Rams’ competitive streak rose to the occasion and the momentum of the match took a major swing. Four times the Broncos served for game point, only to come up empty-handed. Hillyer was incredibly clutch. She recorded the final five points of the set for CSU, including three kills and two straight service aces, the final of which solidified a 29-27 set win for CSU.
Entering the night, Boise State was 21-0 in matches in which they took the first set. And for a while, this streak appeared in jeopardy.
CSU rolled in the third set, hitting .440 to win in convincing fashion. But once again, the momentum would swing like a pendulum back in the Broncos’ favor in the fourth set.
Boise State jumped out to a 16-11 lead in the fourth stanza, and would not relinquish it. The Broncos rattled off five straight points to stretch the lead to 21-11 before finishing it off by a score of 25-13.
The Broncos carried that momentum into the fifth, where they hit .588 in the set. The difference was a four-point run that gave the Broncos match point and a 14-10 lead following a successful Rams challenge that cut the deficit to 10-7. To one’s surprise, it was Nobley who recorded the match-deciding kill.
CSU will next play Air Force at home on Saturday at 1 p.m. MT.
Collegian Sports Reporter Michael Roley can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @michael_roley