Volleyball opens season up against North Dakota State and Saint Mary’s

When the first serve is struck on Friday night, a page will be turned and a fresh season of CSU volleyball will begin.

Last year’s Mountain West player of the year Adrianna Culbert, as well as defensive superstar Jaime Colaizzi and all-conference player Alex Reid, have graduated and ushered in an opportunity for new players to make their mark. CSU returns several key players from a year ago including preseason all-MW selection Alexandra Poletto, a junior middle blocker who led the team in blocking last season with 1.33 per set and junior Jasmine Hanna returns after averaging 2.29 kills per set. Senior Cassidy Denny is the returning leader defensively after compiling 244 digs last season.

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Behind that, there will be many new faces on the floor this weekend for CSU. Head coach Tom Hilbert said he expects five freshman to make their collegiate debuts this weekend, including four who are in their first year of college play.

The Rams have a busy opening weekend, taking on North Dakota State at home in their season opener Friday followed by another home match against St. Mary’s on Saturday evening. The quick turnaround is a fairly routine procedure in the early part of the nonconference schedule, according to Hilbert.

North Dakota State finished last season 19-12 while going finishing in fourth place in the Summit League. The Bison lost only one starter and return two All-Summit League selections in senior middle blockers Emily Minnick and Emily Miron. NDSU likes to play a fast-paced system with good ball movement that will provide an early test for the Rams.

“They’re a very competitive team,” Hilbert said. “Their system is fast… It really challenges you as a team to prepare properly. They’re going to play faster than we play in practice. You have to try and simulate that in the preparation phase. I think from looking at it we match up well with them athletically but they are really fast. They move the ball around a lot.”

Meanwhile, Saturday’s opponent, Saint Mary’s found themselves at the cellar of their conference last season, finishing 6-22 and winning only a single game in West Coast Conference play. The Gaels were selected to finish eighth in the 10-team league in the WCC preseason coaches poll.

Saint Mary’s and North Dakota State will then square off against each other on Sunday to cap off the weekend. This weekend will kick off a stretch where the Rams will play six games within an eight day stretch.

Regardless of the opponent, after a long offseason CSU is eager to get back on their home floor.

“I’m excited to be playing in Moby again,” Poletto said. “It’s been a year and I’m ready to get back out there and compete.”

Collegian Sports Reporter Michael Roley can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Michael_Roley