Cowgirls oust CSU in four sets of opening Border War

Luke Zahlmann

The Colorado State volleyball trip across the border served as the second leg of their first multiple-game losing streak in-conference in over a decade, losing in four sets to the University of Wyoming (19-25, 25-18, 14-25,)

From the start, the raucous crowd in Laramie, Wyoming made their presence felt. Despite a 3-0 run to begin the match, the Rams were unable to capitalize on a fast start. The visitors failed to limit Wyoming sophomore Jackie McBride. The Aurora, Colorado native was a perfect five for five in the opening set.

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Wyoming held their lead for most of the set, imposing their will on each CSU run before it could get going. The Rams hit a mere .176 in the opening set, a far cry from their .316 mark in the opening set of their trip to Wyoming last year.

“(Wyoming) is the best blocking team in the league,” Coach Tom Hilbert said. “We knew it and we didn’t do a very good job with our pin hitters at all.”

The Rams reversed course in the second set behind the lead of their leading hitter redshirt sophomore Breana Runnels. The 2017 Mountain West Newcomer of the Year tallied five kills in the set to boost her total to double digits going into the break.

McBride of the Cowgirls was limited better in the second set as the Rams held the middle blocker to a single kill. The Rams held the Cowgirls to a .259 percentage in the set.

In last year’s season series, the Rams won both matchups outright, only dropping a single set in the pair of contests, with a sweep on the road to show for it.

After several graduations including outside hitters Jasmine Hanna and Sanja Cizmic, the Rams failed to find their same groove across the border this year, showing cracks that led to their loss already against Fresno State University.

In the momentum-shifting third set, the Rams failed to catch their footing.

The Rams trailed the entire set after their early lead of 3-2. After the Cowgirls tied the match at three apiece, the Rams hit into a trio of consecutive attacking errors, allowing the hosts to build their lead.

After splitting the first two sets, the Rams saw the Cowgirls build a double-digit lead as the set continued.

The set was decided as the Cowgirls held the Rams to a .029 hitting percentage, their lowest tally of the match. Runnels, though provided with 41 attempts through the first three sets, was held to 14 kills, limiting the Rams’ attack from the outside.

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“Our middles can’t carry us,” Hilbert said. “(Redshirt junior) Kirstie Hillyer can’t carry us, we have to have everyone playing. We don’t have that many players.”

The home team had 11.5 blocks to show for their defensive efforts through the opening three sets, towering over the Rams’ total of six.

In the deciding final set, the Rams fell behind early as the Cowgirls started on a 5-0 run led by a pair of kills from sophomore Faith Waitsman.

The Cowgirls never trailed in the final set, cruising to their 11th win of the year.

CSU was outhit in the match .284 to .144 in percentage, with the aforementioned McBride leading the way for the Cowgirls with 10 kills. The Rams were also outblocked 13.5 to 7 in the match, another notch in the belt of the Cowgirls’ conference-leading kill stopping. 

The Rams return home to face the Air Force Academy Oct.5 at 7 p.m. A 3-2 mark in the conference, CSU is looking to halt their current slide.

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