CSU volleyball sweeps Air Force at home to keep MW record perfect

Sam Lounsberry

Home court is quite the advantage for CSU’s volleyball team, especially when it faces Air Force.
 
With the Rams’ 3-0 sweep of the Falcons on Saturday (27-25, 25-18, 25-21), they extended their streak to 23 straight sweeps of Air Force at Moby Arena in front of  a crowd of 1,843. That’s 69 sets in a row CSU (12-3, 6-0 MW) has won against Air Force (8-11, 1-4 MW) at Moby Arena.
 
But Saturday’s victory still came with plenty of adversity for CSU.
 
“This is a really good Air Force team,” senior middle blocker Acacia Andrews said. “They’re just an older team from last year, and I know we struggled last year at Air Force, so I think coming in we had to take them seriously.”
 
In the opening set, the Rams were faced with a 24-21 deficit after controlling most of the set. But they rallied to score three straight, two coming from a crucial Andrews block followed by an Alex Reid kill, to tie the set at 24.
Poletto
CSU volleyball’s Alexandra Poletto goes up for a kill over Air Force’s Taylor Parker in CSU’s 3-0 sweep of the Falcons Saturday. Photo by Sam Lounsberry
 
From there, AF’s Taylor Parker made a kill to take a short-lasted 25-24 lead. CSU then made three consecutive kills, two by Reid to take the set. Reid finished with 13 kills on a .379 hitting percentage to go along with seven digs.
 
That first set comeback was exactly what it took for CSU to find its flow. The second set opened in favor of CSU 8-1 before Air Force coach Matt McShane called timeout. A period in which Reid and Adrianna Culbert were found for consistent hitting opportunities, with Reid spikes being set up on the left and Culbert smashes on the right, really built CSU’s momentum.
 
Tom Hilbert was impressed by his senior leaders’ timely bounce back into rhythm after they got off to an average start in the first set.
 
“Alex, at the beginning of the match, had a little bit of a struggle, and then pulls herself out of it,” Hilbert said. “She was key for us the whole day. And then Dri, beginning of the match got blocked a couple times, wasn’t getting some kills, pulls herself out of it. All the sudden she’s really big for us. They’re seniors, that’s what seniors do.”
 
Culbert notched nine kills on 15 attempts with three errors to finish hitting .400 to go along with her game-high 26 assists. She was just a kill and a single dig shy from notching her fifth triple-double on the year.
 
The seniors were far from alone in racking up stats, though. CSU middle blockers Andrews and Alexandra Poletto dominated the middle. The duo combined for 7 of the team’s s 7.5 total blocks as well as 22 kills on the day.
 
“I think early on in the season, it was always like one of us would be having a good blocking night and one of us would be having a good hitting night,” Andrews said. “Tom was like, ‘Okay maybe you guys should both do both.'”
 
They certainly did both Saturday. Andrews finished the second set off with a kill, and put the match-winning point on the scoreboard with a block to end the third.
 
Finding Reid and Poletto to hit was intentional, Hilbert said.
 
Reid
Alex Reid goes for one of her 13 kills in CSU volleyball’s 3-0 sweep over Air Force on Saturday. Photo by Sam Lounsberry.
“That was one of our gameplan keys, we felt we had a physical matchup advantage in the middle,” he stated. “Their middles are good players, we’re just a little higher.”
 
Another Ram was also crucial in ending it. Redshirt junior Grace Gordon came in at the end of the third to serve, and Hilbert saw her involvement as pivotal.
 
“I said in our huddle at the end of the game that if had a game ball, I would have given it to Grace (Gordon),” Hilbert said. “I think she came in at the end of the game, that’s the way it’s supposed to work, she played defense and served in a five-point run or something like that. We needed that at the end of the game, because both teams were battling it out and somebody had to separate and she did it for us.”
 
CSU takes on Mountain West rival Wyoming on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in another home match. The Cowgirls have just one loss in the conference to New Mexico, but swept Boise State in just three sets while the Rams took five to beat the Broncos at home.
 
Sam Lounsberry can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @samlounz.