Rams’ volleyball continues conference homestand against Boise State

Luke Zahlmann

After a 1-2 road trip out of state, Colorado State volleyball (12-6, 4-2)  continues their three-game stint at Moby Arena against Boise State University (11-6, 3-3).

Behind the lead of the second-best Mountain West hitting force by percentage (.249), the Rams head into the final conference stretch of their schedule perched at fourth in the standings.

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Leading the scoring charge for the Rams is redshirt sophomore and 2017 Mountain West Newcomer of the Year, Breana Runnels. The Bakersfield, California native has a team-leading 266 kills on the year. As far as kills per set are concerned, Runnels is on pace to top her 366 kills record last season, the apex tally of the Rams’ attack. 

sophomore Breana Runnels spikes volleyball
After receiving a set from sophomore Katie Oleksak, sophomore Breana Runnels jumps in the air to spike the volleyball during the Sept. 10, 2017 volleyball game versus Idaho State. (Matt Begeman | Collegian)

In their two matches last year, Runnels struggled with efficiency, hitting .200 or less in both matches. With a total of 23 kills on 61 attempts, second of the team in that span, the outside hitter will look to improve on last year’s totals.

Distributing for the Rams is team mainstay junior Katie Oleksak, who once again leads the conference in assists per set (11.17) and sits in the top-25 in the nation (21). The top average comes only a year after Oleksak won 2017 Mountain West Player of the Year.

Opposing their attack, the Broncos hoist the top defense in the Mountain West, limiting opponents to a mere .159 hitting percentage on the year, 26th in the nation at the midway point.

“There’s a huge competitive history with (Boise) so I know they’ll play well,” Oleksak said. “They have strong defense and outside hitters.”

Their prowess is led by senior Morgan Hughes and freshman Jessica Donahue, who have both tallied conference top-10 figures in blocks per set. Donahue, despite her youth, is 18th in the nation in rejections per set (1.45).

Blocks have not evaded the Rams though as their 2.64 blocks per set on the year is ranked 23rd in the nation.

In their previous 15 matchups, the Rams have been the victors in all but one, with the lone loss causing them to lose the Mountain West Championship in 2016.

“Boise always steps up and plays their best against us,” Oleksak said. “We just need to go in prepared for that.”

Now a senior, the Rams have seen Boise State’s outside hitter Sabryn Roberts multiple times. In their 2016 loss, Roberts accumulated 14 kills but was limited to a .222 percentage in the match.

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Last year, Roberts was held to 20 kills on a sub-.200 percentage in both matchups against the Rams. The Rams have made it a point to limit Roberts in the past, something they are likely to continue in this year’s iteration.

A fast start will be as crucial for the Rams as last year when, in their two matchups against Boise State, the team experienced varied results. When they kept their hitting dynamic, the Rams swept the Broncos, with a .376 percentage to show for it.

In their other matchup, the Rams only hit to the tune of .195, forcing the team to take the hosts to five sets, eventually defeating Boise State 17-15 in the final frame.

The Rams face off with Boise State Oct. 11 with the match set to begin shortly after 7 p.m.

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