CSU opens season with Rams Volleyball Classic against talented Baylor team

Emmett McCarthy

Colorado State’s volleyball team will kick off its season with three games in two days. The Rams get started with a “White Out” at Moby 6 p.m. Friday when they host the Baylor Bears in part of the 2015 Rams Volleyball Classic. Northern Iowa and UC Davis will get the event going with a 3:30 p.m. match.

The Rams pick right back up with a doubleheader at Moby Saturday. CSU starts off at 10:30 a.m. against UC Davis and wraps things up with a match set for 7:30 p.m. against Northern Iowa.

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Between those matches, Baylor and UNI will go head-to-head at 1 p.m. The Rams Volleyball Class wraps up at Moby on Sunday when UC Davis takes on Baylor at 1 p.m.

“We really don’t know much about Northern Iowa and UC Davis, but we’re going to see them before we play,” Hilbert said. “Baylor we have been doing some work on. We know that they’re athletic. They’ve got a really, really good outside hitter … and I think their setting is outstanding, so they are very fast to the pins. They’re a difficult team to start off with.”

The outside hitter Hilbert referred to is Andie Malloy, an Iowa State transfer, who finished second in the Big 12 in kills per set (3.89) and double-doubles (17). The Bears also feature a talented hitter in the middle. Tola Itiola started 26 games as a sophomore for Baylor last season, recording 160 kills and a team-best .292 hitting percentage.

Hilbert said he will play Alexandra Poletto and Acacia Andrews in the middle, believing that they bring enough athleticism of their own to possibly stop Baylor at the point of attack.

Adrianna Culbert and Crystal Young will play as setters in the new 6-2 rotation Hilbert has decided to install this year to make up for the loss of Deedra Foss and her 4,833 career sets, the fifth-most of all time at CSU and the most at the school since rally scoring was implemented in 2008.

“There is more pressure on passing and defense, because we’re losing one of the best setters in the nation,” Colaizzi said. “There is more pressure on us to get the ball where it needs to go every time.”

Senior transfer Alex Reid will play as a left-side hitter, and so will Jasmine Hanna. As of Wednesday afternoon, Hilbert had not decided on who he will go with in the starting lineup on the right side.

Whoever ends up hitting, Hilbert wants to see them finish strong, but efficiently. He harped on that all week in practice to his players. Hit it hard, and hit it in play. If it gets blocked, it gets blocked. That could be on Friday, as Itiola is a solid blocker in the middle too.

Keeping unforced errors to a minimum is the key. Hilbert believes that if you do that and you still get beat, then you can live with it.

“I always go into this first weekend sort of unsure about who we are but I do know that we need to go play with a great deal of maturity,” Hilbert said. “Keep the errors down and do smart things and compete at the end of sets. If we do those things, we are going to be fine.”

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CSU will host a BBQ before the game on Friday to welcome back the season. It starts at 4:30 p.m. on the north side of Moby Arena. The first 1,000 students will receive free t-shirts.

Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @emccarthy22.