CSU seals a positive record in tournament with win over TCU

Sergio Santistevan

No. 25 Colorado State volleyball came out firing in their first two sets of their Moby Arena tournament against Texas Christian which helped lead to their four-set victory in the concluding match (25-21, 25-15, 15-25, 25-20).

Kirstie Hillyer goes up for a kill
Kirstie Hillyer goes up for a kill during the Rams 3-1 win Sunday afternoon against TCU. (Joe Oakman | Collegian)

TCU struggled throughout the tournament, going winless in their first two matchups of the weekend to both Florida State University and The University of Cincinnati.  

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To start, the Rams swung to an impressive hitting percentage (.444) in the opening set victory. CSU capitalized off of TCU’s seven attack errors and the play of Kirstie Hillyer. Hillyer, with a noticeable size difference compared to TCU, led the Rams with seven kills in the set. 

“I think it’s definitely an advantage, we had a big team, they had a big team,” Hillyer said. “I think we came out and did well against them.”

The Rams’ second set was more of the same as TCU’s collection of errors was the story throughout the second set with a total of 12 compared to CSU’s three. The Horned Frogs were unable to garner any offense, hitting a whopping zero percent in the set. An all-around team effort contributed to the Rams 25-15 second set victory, including the help of freshmen Sasha Colombo. The Rams had five straight points led by Colombo’s serves.

Coach Tom Hilbert says moving forward he will use Colombo as a server but wants to ease her as an attacker as well.

Despite coming out of the intermission up 2-0, the Rams looked a bit sluggish to start the third set. Their nemesis early in the season, CSU had four errors in the early portion of the set as TCU jumped out to an early 9-2 lead. The slow start was too much to overcome as the Horned Frogs dominated the third set 25-15 to avoid the sweep.

“Something happened. It was momentum based, and that they jumped out to a lead.” Hilbert said. “Our team got a little disruptive, we didn’t refocus from that.”

A bit of a hungover carried into the fourth set for the Rams but resulted in the most competitive set of the entire match. Both teams had their fair share of the lead, but the action was back-and-forth for majority of the set. In the biggest call of the night, Hilbert successfully challenged the ruling of a kill by Runnels that went off the fingertips of a TCU defender to widen the score 22-19, which woke up the Moby faithful. CSU looked to learn from their mistakes against Florida State University and never relinquished their lead again.

“Sets like that are so good for our volleyball team to play, complete with a win,” said Hilbert. “It’s winning the hard way, but you have to learn how to do that.”

The Rams were led in points by Breanna Runnels, but it was the play from Oleksak that stood out to Hilbert. Oleksak was one block away from a triple-double.

“I thought she played well,” Hilbert said. “What I liked about it today was that she, in the fourth set, was just really good.”

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TCU was led by a career-match from freshman élan McCall with 31 kills on a .349 percentage.

Hilbert says gritty, tournaments and games like these, help prepare for conference play and advancement in the NCAA tournament.

CSU will face another challenge as they will have to pack their bags and head to Ann Arbor, Michigan for a tournament starting on Sept. 7. The Rams have a three-game stretch starting with Louisiana State University and Oakland University before ending with The University of Michigan, a team they faced twice last season. 

Collegian sports reporter Sergio Santistevan can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @TheRealsSergio.