Colorado State chasing eighth MW title in a row

Thirteen of the past 17 Mountain West volleyball regular season championships belong to Colorado State, including seven consecutive coming into the 2016 season. If there were a single phrase to describe the Colorado State volleyball program and its Mountain West play it might be: total domination.

Colorado State will open their 2016 campaign as the No. 25 ranked team in the country. It is important to recognize Colorado State’s recent success, but the future is what these Rams are worried about. The team doesn’t want to put too much pressure on itself to win another Mountain West championship, they want to just go out and do it.

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“There is pressure put on us, of course, especially with it being seven straight,” senior defensive specialist Cassidy Denny said. “We just want to go out there and play as hard as we can, as best as we can and whatever happens, happens…It’s not a matter of we should win, we still have to work for everything, but we think if we go out there and play hard and work hard that it will come.”

Before the Rams can begin to think about winning another Mountain West championship, they have to get through the grind that is the non-conference schedule.

On the schedule again this season are Big-12 opponents Baylor and Texas. The Rams made quick work of Baylor last season, as they swept the Bears 3-0 in Fort Collins. Texas proved to be a different story, as the perennial powerhouse took care of CSU in short order, sweeping the Rams 3-0 in Autsin.

Texas comes into the 2016 season ranked as the No. 2 team in the country and the only team to currently hold a national rank on the Rams’ schedule. When the Rams and Longhorns faceoff this time around, the matchup will take place Sept. 9, at Moby Arena in Fort Collins during the Rams Volleyball Classic.

While Texas is going to be marked on everyone’s schedules, the Longhorns aren’t the only game to catch the player’s eyes.

“Texas for sure, CU for sure, and then just going out and playing hard in conference and seeing what happens,” Denny said, speaking on what she was looking forward to most about the CSU schedule.

The Rams and Buffs will faceoff Sept. 17, in Boulder. Unlike most other NCAA sanctioned sports, the Rams and Buffs don’t play annually in volleyball.

The last time the two teams met in a regular season match was in 2010, where Colorado State won 3-0. The two teams most recently played against each other in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, where CSU again beat CU, but by a closer three sets to two. It just so happens that the Rams advanced to play Texas in that 2014 tournament, a game that ended in a similar 3-0 victory for the Longhorns.

CSU should move through non-conference play without too much trouble, giving the team a solid foundation to start conference play.

Mountain West play starts Sept. 22, against Fresno State. The Rams dominated conference play in 2015, finishing at an undefeated 18-0 in the MW. While CSU did go through the conference play unblemished, both Boise State and Wyoming took the Rams to a fifth set. However, CSU would also sweep both Boise State and Wyoming during conference play last season.

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The Colorado State schedule sets up for the Rams to make another run at an eighth consecutive Mountain West championship, and if everything goes as expected, head coach Tom Hilbert should reach his 500th career win at CSU this season a few games into conference play.

Collegian Sports Editor can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ChadDeutschman