What a difference a week at home made for the CSU volleyball team. Last weekend, the Rams were unfocused and inept in an 0-3 embarassment in Wichita, Kan.
This weekend they went 3-0 against No. 12 Pepperdine, Florida International University and New Mexico State en route to the 2012 Ram Volleyball Classic championship.
CSU opened the tournament Friday with its signature win of the season so far, a 3-0 triumph over No. 12 Pepperdine. Both teams hit more than .360 in the third set, but the Rams blocked more effectively to close out the win.
“That’s a battle, that’s a war and we came out on top,” said CSU coach Tom Hilbert.
The team cruised through the first two sets of its next match against FIU, but ultimately had to gut out a 33-31 win in set four to take the match.
“We found ourselves being able to serve and receive better in the second two sets,” said FIU coach Trevor Theroulde. “We were able to slow down, because you’re not going to be able to stop, but slow down their outsides.”
The Rams improved their blocking over the course of the tournament, registering 19.5 total blocks in their 3-1 win over New Mexico State.
“Tonight is who I think we should be all of the time,” Hilbert said. “We had some good solos, and that is so demoralizing to the other team.”
CSU focused on the areas it struggled with most in Wichita during practice this week, like the tempo to the middle blockers and out-of-system sets to the outside hitters and transferred those lessons to the court.
“It was a fabulous week of practice, spurred on by the fact that we had to improve,” Hilbert said. “I told my team at the end of this match, ‘Look, let’s have another great week of practice even though we went 3-0 because it sure made us better.’”
Seniors Megan Plourde and Dana Cranston, and setter Deedra Foss made the all-tournament team. Plourde garnered MVP recognition after recording double-digit kills in all three matches and picking up a double-double in the last match with 13 blocks.
“Personally I feel like this is the first match that I blocked at the same standard I did last year. I’ve been frustrated with myself lately because I’ve been missing a lot of blocks,” Plourde said. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot about reading the setter and watching different cues.”
The Rams have now won four straight matches after dropping three in a row and extended their home match winning streak to 16 games.
Picking up three wins is exactly what Hilbert wanted for his team out of this tournament, because it puts them in the best possible position looking ahead to Saturday’s matchup with defending national champion UCLA.
“We just have to stay focused in practice this week and be prepared,” Plourde said.
Assistant Sports Editor Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.