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CSU volleyball prepares for key road matchups this weekend

Nothing says the first road weekend for No. 14 Colorado State volleyball like facing three former conference foes, one of which ranks top-10 in the nation.  The 6-1 Rams will travel to Las Cruces, New Mexico looking to extend a perfect 14-0 record last season away from Moby Arena with wins on Friday against No. 9 BYU and New Mexico State, and Texas-El Paso on Saturday.

“Now we’ve got to focus on a three weekend in a row road swing where we play some great teams,” head coach Tom Hilbert said during Tuesday’s press conference. “I know my team is tired but it is a big test time for us.”

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Since the start of the season a little more than two weeks ago, the Rams have had one regular practice as a result of playing 10 matches in 15 days. With limited time to make adjustments heading into their longest road stretch of the year, this weekend’s matchups will test CSU as well as make them stronger both physically and mentally.

Despite a three-set defeat at the hands of No. 4 Wisconsin last weekend for the Rams, it was a step in the right direction for CSU. The team learned where it can improve — blocking and evenly distributing attacks on offense will be pivotal to its success all season and this weekend in particular.

“This is one of the tougher schedules that we’ve ever had,” Hilbert said of the road stretch. “All of our preseason teams are very good and challenging, and I think five or six of them are better than every team we played last year. We could be a .500 team in non-conference and be better than last year.”

CSU has competed against BYU more than any team in the country with the exception of rival north Wyoming. The Rams rivalry against the Cougars dates back to 1976, CSU’s first season, with BYU leading the series 46-26-1. However, under Hilbert the Rams have won four out of the five last meetings.

BYU heads into the weekend 5-1, with its only loss coming in five sets to No. 5 Washington on Sept. 5. With a strong defense like the Rams, the Cougars lead the nation in blocks per set (3.70), out blocking its opponents 74.0 to 38.5.

Known as one of the Rams’ biggest areas of improvement, Hilbert continues to harp on his team to block better as a group, despite ranking 10th in the country, averaging 3.11 blocks per set.

“I think any time we get to play top competition its just the game be look forward to because we know we are going to be challenged and that they are going to be a good team. So we are going to have to play our best in order to get better as a team,” junior outside hitter Adrianna Culbert said.

The Rams will wrap up the weekend with WAC preseason champion New Mexico State Friday night and UTEP on Saturday. Friday night’s game against UTEP will broadcast on ESPN3.

Collegian Sports Reporter Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @haleighhamblin.

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