A win over the San Jose State Spartans played second fiddle Thursday night as No. 21 Colorado State achieved two milestones in the match. Senior Jasmine Hanna became the program’s all-time leader in kills in modern era scoring and head coach Tom Hilbert picked up his 700th career win in their sweep over the Spartans (25-18, 25-15, 25-22).
“These guys are here for their own little slice of time and (Hanna) has made history, she has made an impact on the program,” Hilbert said. “I think it’s a great honor for her, I’m really proud of her. I can’t wait to get her to sign one of those posters for me.”
The kill countdown for Hanna began in the first set after she picked up three kills to lead the Rams (17-2, 7-0 MW). After Hanna started the second set with a kill, Moby Arena grew more and more eager to see the outside hitter reach her 1,067th career kill.
With the Rams up comfortably at 9-2, Hanna finally broke the record. She was met by a standing ovation from the crowd of 2,122 and all of her teammates dancing and cheering on the sideline. Hanna did not look phased, however, as she went straight back to her spot on the court and played it close to the chest.
“I was very excited, it was awesome,” Hanna said. “The game wasn’t over. Maybe if it was the last kill of the game and we had won then I could get a little excited, but we still hadn’t won yet so gotta keep it serious.”
Hilbert subbed Hanna out a few points later as she received even more cheering and a crisp high five and pat on the back from her coach.
“(My teammates) were so supportive and I love them to death,” Hanna said. “We came into this match and they were saying, ‘Anything it takes to get you there.’”
CSU cruised through the first two sets, leading for the entirety of both frames. Oleksak proved she is more than just a setter with a solo block in the first set and three more blocking assists in the first two frames to lead the team. She finished with four blocks and tied for the team lead in digs with eight.
The Spartans fought back in the third set by picking up their only three blocks of the match and hitting a game high .179 as a team. They held a late lead at 14-15, but the Rams’ European duo of Sanja Cizmic and Paulina Hougaard-Jensen scored the next two points to give the Rams a 16-15 lead.
All night, the focus was on Hanna as the crowd received posters to honor her record and the senior went home with a golden volleyball to commemorate the event. She finished the match with 13 kills and 1,074 in her career. Fittingly, she ended the night with a kill to the back left corner of the court.
“Obviously there is going to be that pressure, but we just didn’t really harp on it,” Oleksak said about Hanna’s looming record. “I just wanted to give her good balls and make that possible for her.”
“I just wanted to play my game and not really think about (the record) and just play the best I could,” Hanna added.
Offense came easy for the Rams in most of the match as they did not have a ball blocked until the third set and finished with a .400 hitting mark. Sophomore Kirstie Hillyer added eight kills with Hougaard-Jensen and Breana Runnels picking up seven.
But the night also brought the 700th career win for Hilbert, his 526th win as a Ram. The modest Hilbert deflected his accoladein favor of Hanna’s milestone.
“It’s fun to be a coach and to coach long enough in your life to get 700 wins,” Hilbert said. “But what makes it fun to be a coach is to see things like what happened with Jasmine (Hanna) tonight.”
The Rams’ defense also gave the Spartans fits all night as they finished hitting .119 for the match. SJSU’s top hitters, Nandyala Gama and Giulia Gavio, were both held under a .200 hitting clip.
Overall, the Mountain West picture looks pretty clear for the Rams as the win gives them a two-game lead over Wyoming in second place. CSU has swept six of their seven opponents in conference play.
“Maybe I have to be a bigger butt head to them in practice,” Hilbert said on the team staying focused. “We can’t let them get comfortable…we need to try to get better all the time.”
The short home stand continues for the Rams Saturday when they host the Nevada Wolfpack in their annual pink out game and homecoming match. The match is set to begin at 12 p.m.
Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @ajwrules44.