Colorado State senior Hanna Tvrdy has no intentions finishing her collegiate career without a win over Colorado.
Tvrdy and the Rams have been on the losing end of the biggest rivalry in the state for the past three years. After a weekend victory for men’s basketball over the Buffs, the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of the women’s team to follow suit.
“There’s a little bit of pressure,” Grace Colaivalu said. “’Men’s won, so women should be able to win. But we go into the game with the same mindset to win and you just have to play your game.”
As a spark plug for the Rams after their opening night loss, Colaivalu has been handed the reigns to the offense and been relied upon to facilitate and find her own scoring opportunities as she sees fit. Along with fellow guard Tvrdy, the two have formed a solid backcourt duo in the wake of the Rams losing their top two scorers.
A team with speed, the Buffs pose a threat in the transition game and will test the execution and conditioning of each Rams player that sees the floor. With a deep and experienced bench, the Rams will have the ability to transfer responsibility seamlessly between each player to jump off the pine.
“Our bench is huge every game,” Tvrdy said. “Coming in and just giving us energy, that little spark, we definitely need that. With us hopefully playing a fast pace game, we’re really going to need those kids coming in and giving us a lot of extra things off the bench.”
With newly added senior Stine Austgulen, the Rams have a bench that has been in big games and knows how to ignore the noise and focus on the game plan. Alongside Austgulen, the Rams send junior Callie Kaiser to the floor in times of need. Kaiser leads the team in field goal percentage and despite being third to last in total minutes, has risen to the top six on the team in nearly every counting stat.
The biggest determining factor for the Rams to avenge last year’s loss is containing junior guard Kennedy Leonard. Leonard, coming off a year where she was named First-Team All-PAC-12 runs the break and allows the Buffs to run a breakneck offensive tempo that has led the team to a 6-1 record. Leonard leads the Buffs in scoring with 16 points per game and is the leading distributor with 50 total assists.
Down low, the Buffs are led by freshman forward Annika Jank, a double-double threat who leads the team in rebounds (55) while also sitting second in scoring per game (12.1). Standing 6 feet 3 inches, Jank is taller than every Rams starter. Limiting her rebounding opportunities will be a make or break ordeal for the Rams’ upset hopes.
“You somehow have to get (Leonard) slowed down,” coach Ryun Williams said. “They’re really good in transition so we have got to try to take that away. We’re gonna have to fight the best we can on the glass against a team that is probably more athletic and bigger.”
The Rams will host the Buffs Wednesday night with tipoff shortly after 7 p.m. After a ruckus Saturday for the men’s team, the same will be expected from the fans as the women play in front of an Orange Out crowd.
Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.