Once the CSU volleyball team got past their first game jitters, it cruised through the rest of the 2012 Rams Volleyball Rocky Mountain Invitational.
CSU swept Virginia, Denver and Rhode Island during the weekend to start the season 3-0 for the second straight year.
The Rams started the first set of the season against Virginia on a fairly shaky note. The set was tied at 16 before CSU scored nine of the next 11 points to close it out.
“The one advantage we probably had was that we knew what some of their players were going to do. They had no idea what we were going to do,” Virginia coach Dennis Hohenshelt said. “In the end (CSU) just physically overpowered us.”
That trend continued through the other two matches in the tournament. CSU blocked 27 balls throughout three games, forcing teams into hitting errors in efforts to avoid getting thwarted at the net.
Senior outside hitter Dana Cranston only tallied six kills against Virginia Friday, but came back with double digit kills in both matches on Saturday.
“I had pretty poor error management in the first game, which usually isn’t how I play,” she said. “I focused on that a lot these last two games, and took swings to kill when I had the opportunity.”
CSU jumped out to early first set leads against Denver and Rhode Island and didn’t let off the gas in both sweeps. The Rams kept long rallies alive with scrambling defense and either found the kill or forced their opponent into a hitting error.
“It speaks a lot to (associate head coach) Brook (Coulter). She’s enforced the idea that defense is an attitude,” Cranston said. “Last year those balls were dropping either because of hesitation from people or we couldn’t make the play. Her working with us is doing a lot.”
The last match Saturday against Rhode Island wasn’t close from the beginning. CSU beat the Rams 25-9 in the first set, the third time they’ve held a team to single digits since 2007.
CSU tried to speed up the tempo of its offense in its last match in order to better utilize its outside hitters, which led to another dominant game from Cranston.
“We wanted to see how fast we could go with the outsides, so I think we’re going to continue to go that fast in the other games because it worked well for us,” redshirt sophomore setter Deedra Foss said.
CSU accomplished its goals in the tournament by picking up wins in all three matches and working out some kinks before next weekend’s tournament in Wichita, Kan.
“This tournament helped us see some things, and we accomplished some things we needed to accomplish,” CSU coach Tom Hilbert said. “We got three wins, which we should have gotten, and we identified some things we need to work on. Now we’ve got to look forward to Wichita State, which will be a challenging tournament for us.”