CSU volleyball embraces the challenges that come on the road

Luke Zahlmann

Hitting the road is commonplace in college volleyball. Considering their top-ten home attendance, Colorado State volleyball has a unique challenge when they stray.

a player prepares to serve
Amanda Young prepares to serve during the home opener against Illinois. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

Following their trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan where they went 2-1, the Rams will hit the road once again to face in-state rival the University of Colorado as part of their co-hosted Colorado Challenge.

Ad

In their previous four matchups on the road this year, the Rams are 3-1.

A positive trend has developed for the Rams as their road record is 28-10 over the last three season when adding in this year’s results.

The difficulties when playing on the road are twofold in volleyball. The crowd is against a visiting team, and the travel and warm-up procedures are conducted in an hour to warm-up due to NCAA volleyball rules. That hour serves as the time for the visitors in a tournament to adapt to the new environment as teams are not given time in the gym to practice prior to the majority of tournaments.

When teams come to Colorado, that factor plays a distinct role.

“The serve drops a little bit more (on the road),” junior Katie Oleksak said. “Teams that come here struggle with that as well. They hit a lot of their serves out because of the altitude, so it does have a big effect on the games.” 

With the altitude serving to allow balls to fly further at home, the Rams are forced to adapt when away from Moby Arena. That hour to warm up serves as the lone moment where the Rams are able to complete the process.

A lack of moments to prepare in practice leading up to the games forces many of the Rams to change their playing style on the fly.

In their sweep at the hands of Michigan in the final game of their tournament Sept. 8, the Rams were unable to adapt.

“We were affected in Ann Arbor,” Coach Tom Hilbert said. “The jump spin serves, for example, drop more in Ann Arbor and that messed us up. Usually, that’s the problem in someone else’s gym.”

The Mountain West Conference poses few matchups with similar altitude, forcing the conference season to be one of constant adaptation for the Rams.

Ad

Constant adjustments allow the Rams to gain a leg up on several other teams including the NCAA Tournament in which several teams are brought to a host arena and forced to adapt or be eliminated, even if they have not traveled far from their own arena for road games.

Home-court advantage is another factor the Rams face on the road. Fortunately for them, Moby Madness results in their home crowds often being the loudest they appear in front of.

“The hardest part is playing in a new gym,” redshirt junior Kirstie Hillyer said. “We average two to three thousand fans and other gyms average two to three hundred.”

As one of the few volleyball programs in the nation that has their volleyball team compete in their official arena, the Rams are able to house several more fans than most.

A prime example is their tournament last season at Florida State University. Placed in the Bobby Tully Gymnasium, the Seminoles competed in front of a third of the crowd capacity, with the volume levels being minuscule compared to Moby.

“We go to some places that are big arenas that don’t get fans, those are sort of a sterile environment,” Hilbert said. “Florida State was like that. Then there are some smaller places like Wyoming where they pack a lot of people in there and it’s hostile.”

With such a variance in venues, the Rams have honed their focus into their own gameplan, tuning out the outside noise.

The ability to ignore the conditions and focus on the game plan has allowed the Rams to compete at a high level, regardless of the arena.

“We just try and focus on the little things,” sophomore Maddi Foutz said. “We make the little things great and then all of the details and it’ll all come together.”

The Rams face both Portland State and Colorado on the road in a doubleheader in Boulder, Colorado Sept. 15. The pair of road matchups wraps up the Rams’ out-of-conference schedule.

Collegian Sports Director Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.