The UNLV Rebels were run out of Moby Arena Saturday afternoon as Colorado State dominated them in a straight-set victory (25-16, 25-19, 25-8).
There was no better example of the Rams (12-2, 2-0 MW) dominance than the third set in which they held the Rebels (4-11, 0-2 MW) to a hitting percentage of -.533. CSU recorded five blocks while the Rebels almost doubled their attack errors with nine of their 20 coming in the final frame.
“We played great defense today, we played crisp defense today,” head coach Tom Hilbert said. “I think at the end there, their coach had told them just keep setting the middles…we really honed in on them and stopped them. They were having problems making connections with that setter.”
The Rams started out on an 8-0 run before the Rebels were finally able to get on the board. The set ended how it started with the Rams closing out the Rebels on a 7-0 run to make the final set score 25-8.
“This was a terrific match by our team,” Hilbert said. “I think our execution, service pressure and really our ability to side out and to transition every time they gave us what we call a ‘junk ball,’ we were converting it.”
Senior Jasmine Hanna led the way again for the Rams on offense with 12 kills and a .360 hitting mark. Sophomore Kirstie Hillyer had six kills with a .500 mark in her second match back from a knee injury she suffered earlier in the year.
Alexandra Poletto also played as the Rams starting middle blockers both look to be ready for the grind of conference play. Having Poletto and Hillyer back in the middle gives the Rams great depth as sophomore Paulina Hougaard-Jensen shined in their absence.
“It’s nice to always have options and to have a deep bench,” sophomore setter Katie Oleksak said. “I think it’s really good to have those options and to mix it up. I’m glad Axi (Poletto) and Stie (Hillyer) could play today.”
Oleksak paced the Rams with five blocks, including a solo block early in the third set to make it 5-0 Rams. She also registered 38 assists in the match while helping out the back defenders with six digs, second most for the Rams.
Overall, the Rams hit .425 as a team for the match while holding the Rebels to -.042. The only area that UNLV bested the Rams in was serving, as seen by CSU having 12 service errors to the Rebels’ zero.
Other than serving, the No. 23 team in the nation handily won its second conference match of the season to end an eight-game home stand. The Rams went 7-1 in those matches, the only loss coming against No. 25 Colorado.
“There is definitely no pressure,” redshirt freshman Breana Runnels said on the Rams’ option on offense. “Coming off of all these three-game weekends and now we are in conference we play two games a week, everybody is fresh, everybody can hit at their highest level.”
The Rams will need their highest level as their next four matches will be on the road. Wyoming is up first when CSU travels to Laramie Tuesday to take on the Cowgirls at 6:30 p.m.. The Rams will finish the stretch with matchups against Air Force, Boise State and Utah State.
Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ajwrules44.