Vital conference match lies on the horizon for CSU volleyball

Luke Zahlmann

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Katie Oleksak sets the ball to Paulina Hougarrd-Jensen against Nevada. (Erica Giesenhagen | Collegian)

Accruing an undefeated conference record, with only two games going past the third set, the Rams will look to continue their dominance as they return to Moby for the second installment of the Border War against Wyoming on Tuesday evening.

In front of a crowd that ranks top ten in attendance, CSU volleyball has taken a liking to its home court in which they have dropped a mere seven sets on the year. The Cowgirls hosted the Rams earlier in the year and were subject to a dominating performance by the Rams in which they won each set by an average of eight points in a clean sweep. 

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Coming into their second and final matchup, the two teams both have recent success. The Cowgirls have dropped just one match since their loss to the Rams and beat Boise State on the road in what was one of the biggest Mountain West upsets of the year. After a slow start to the year, the Cowgirls have hit their stride and become a force in the conference, now sitting in second place with a 7-3 conference mark. Picked to finish fourth in the conference before the season, Wyoming has become a dark horse contender.

The Cowgirls currently rank second in the MW in both hitting percentage and opponent’s hitting percentage. With an offense led by junior Reed Copeland and defense led by redshirt freshman Jackie McBride and Copeland, the Cowgirls boast prowess on both sides of the net.

Despite the run of the Cowgirls, the Rams still lead the conference with nary a loss. As a regular season conference title inches closer, a game against the team closest to them will give the Rams a chance to extend their lead between them and the rest of the conference. In a year where the Rams have had little competition in the Mountain West, maturity and consistency has led the way to avoiding let downs.

Leading the way for the Rams offensively are seniors Jasmine Hanna and Sanja Cizmic as well as freshman Breana Runnels. The outside hitters for the Rams have been a revelation in a season plagued with injuries in the middle. With a renowned health and dominant rotation in the middle to accompany the outside, multiple players have developed on offense.

Distributing for the abundant number of hitters the Rams possess has been sophomore Katie Oleksak. Regardless of the lineup around her, Oleksak has remained a constant force for the Rams and developed chemistry quickly with Runnels and Paulina Hougaard-Jensen. Coming off a solid freshman year, Oleksak has proved to be a vital asset that has propelled the offense to a new level. As well as her assisting ways, an offseason of blocking work has shown to be paying off for the top defense in the conference.

Following one of their few five set matches of the year, the Rams will have a renewed focus against their conference foe. Hitting woes have limited the offense lately and the team’s defense has been forced to carry the load for the Rams. Though the going will not get easier against the Cowgirls, hitting will be at the forefront.

The match will take place on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Moby Arena. With a win, the Rams can virtually lock up another regular season conference title under coach Tom Hilbert and make another statement in their journey up the top 25 rankings.

Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.