One final home win for the five seniors on the No. 23 Colorado State Rams came Saturday afternoon in their four-set victory over the University of California, Davis (25-18, 25-18, 27-29, 25-18).
“The game started and I settled and I realized that we still have a game to play, it’s not over yet,” senior Sanja Cizmic said on being emotional in the pregame senior ceremony. “It was just like getting calm and getting back into it.”
Historic benchmarks were also surpassed by a couple younger Rams after the match. Sophomore Katie Oleksak set the record for most assists and most assists per set in a season in modern scoring era history at CSU. She ends the regular season with 1,310 assists, breaking the record of 1,293 set by Deedra Foss in 2014. Her 12.02 assists per set also bests the 11.76 mark set by Foss in 2013.
Fellow sophomore Paulina Hougaard-Jensen broke the CSU all-time record for hitting percentage in a season with her .473 mark for the year. The previous record was held by Angela Knopf who hit .456 in 2001 and had 449 kills. Hougaard-Jensen finishes the year with 257 kills.
As for the match, CSU controlled the Aggies defense by putting up a .327 hitting mark for the match. Five different Rams had five kills or more in the match, but none higher than Jasmine Hanna who had 14.
The blocking effort did not make an appearance in the first set, but CSU quickly recovered and sealed their blocks to pick up six in the second set alone. Redshirt sophomore Kirstie Hillyer led the way with 11 block assists in the match to tie a season high which she had in the Rams opener against the Duke Blue Devils.
UC Davis did not allow the Rams to get their 22nd sweep of the year, however, when they took the third set 29-27. The Aggies offensive leader, Mahalia White, picked up eight kills in the third frame alone, leading the Aggies to their best hitting mark of the match at .275. CSU had a match-high five serving errors in the third set.
“I think we were put into a false belief in the first two sets of what UC Davis was like,” head coach Tom Hilbert said. “They were significantly better starting in set three.”
Blocking went on a rollercoaster ride for the match as the Rams had only two blocks in their third-set loss, but came back in the fourth with eight more blocks to finish with 16 for the match.
“The big thing was us not being able to block their right side attack through the last half of the third set and the first part of the fourth set,” Hilbert said. “But then we ended up being successful in the end.”
The last set featured struggles from both sides on offense, but the eight blocks of CSU proved to be too much for UC Davis to overcome.
The Rams celebrated their 14th Mountain West title after the match. Winning the conference guarantees them a spot in the NCAA tournament, which marks their 23rd consecutive appearance.
“I mean we have been missing (the Mountain West trophy) for a year-and-a-half now,” Hanna said on waiting almost a month to hold the trophy after winning the conference. “(I’m) glad to have it back with us.”
Up next for the Rams is their 23rd consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. The Rams will play Michigan in the Stanford regional in Palo Alto, California. The game will begin at 5:30 p.m. MT on Dec. 1.
Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ajwrules44.