CSU women’s hoops seeking first win over rival CU Buffs since 2009

Sam Lounsberry

Last year’s 87-81 double-overtime loss to the University of Colorado hasn’t sat well with the Colorado State women’s basketball team.
 
“We let one slip away last year,” head coach Ryun Williams said. “Our kids, they remember that.”
 
So when the Rams face the Buffs Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Moby Arena, they will be ready. Last season, the CSU football, volleyball and men’s basketball teams all triumphed over their in-state rivals. The women’s team was the only major sports program in Fort Collins to come up short against the Buffs. That makes this go-around with CU a game the Rams have been waiting a year for.
 
“It gives us motivation to beat them more,” forward Ellen Nystrom said. “(Last year) stings a little bit still.”
 
And last year’s loss is far from the only one the Rams hope to avenge Wednesday. Rather, CSU has lost to the Buffs in five consecutive seasons, with its last win in the series coming Dec. 11, 2009 in Moby Arena.
 
A win Wednesday would give Williams his first victory over CU in his fourth season at the helm of the Rams’ women’s hoops program. In his first bout with the Buffs in December of 2012, Williams’ team was blown out 72-46 in Boulder.
 
“The first year we played them, it was pretty obvious we weren’t even close to their talent level,” Williams said.
 
But the Rams have steadily improved since then, losing to CU 63-59 in the 2013-14 season before last year’s double-overtime thriller.
 
“The second year, it gradually got better — close basketball game,” Williams continued. “Last year, I think our kids felt like we belong on the same floor. Whether they’re Power 5, or whatever league they’re in, it doesn’t matter, we’re just as good. … I feel like our kids have a confidence. We should compete well again.”
 
Perhaps part of what held Williams’ teams back against the Buffs before was some of his players not quite grasping the CSU-CU rivalry. An overwhelming majority of the recruits Williams has brought in are from foreign countries, mostly northern Europe. Currently, nine players on CSU’s roster are from overseas.
 
“CU was no big deal, just another school up the road,” Williams joked. “Now if Sweden is playing Denmark, that’s a big deal. But Colorado State-Colorado, what’s this?”
 
Now that Nystrom, who has become a stalwart in her junior season this year, has had a taste of CU, she knows the stakes of the rivalry. She also knows it’s up to her to get other foreign players, especially newcomers such as Amanda Kantzy and Sofie Tryggedsson, on board.
 
“As a freshman, (the seniors) Sam (Martin) and Hayley (Thompson) were really good at explaining everything and they were just like, ‘We have to win, this is the rivalry,'” Nystrom said. “We got it in our heads. Now we have to explain to all the new guys what it means to win.”
 
One player who needs no explanation of the in-state rivalry from her European peers is in-state product Callie Kaiser, a freshman out of Broomfield High School. The guard has averaged 3.5 points per game, a team high among freshman, along with 2.3 rebounds in 10.5 minutes per game off the bench six games into her first NCAA season.
 
“It means a lot, just growing up watching it every year,” Kaiser said. “I’m excited to finally be on one side for sure. So, yeah, it will be a lot of fun.”
 
CU will come into Fort Collins sporting a 3-2 record with its only losses coming to Southeastern Conference foes Kentucky and Florida. The Buffs have beat Loyola Marymount, Northern Colorado and Massachusetts.
 
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @samlounz.