CSU volleyball headed to Pullman, Washington for NCAA Tournament

Bryan Buck

Tom Hilbert and his players have their tickets booked to Pullman, Washington for the weekend as the Colorado State volleyball team, in its 24th-consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, will make the trip for the first and second rounds of this year’s championship.

The Mountain West Champion Rams (23-7, 15-3) earned an automatic bid by winning the conference. The Rams’ RPI rank of 39th and close calls early in the season against other tournament teams like Illinois, the three-seed overall and Florida State earned them a spot against SEC-opponent Tennessee (25-5, 16-2) in the first round.

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If the Rams win their first match, they will take on either the local host Washington State (21-9, 12-8) or Big Sky Champion Northern Arizona (26-8, 15-3).

On Sunday evening, prior to the selection show, Coach Tom Hilbert told a packed house at The Mayor of Old Town that it was great CSU didn’t have to travel to Stanford, the top overall seed and the team that knocked off CSU last year.

“Tennessee I know very little about,” Hilbert said. “They have a new coach and they’ve got good athletes in that program and I think Eve (Rackham) is very good, and she’s made them better. So I’m fired up and our players are fired up.”

two players watch through the net
Sasha Columbo and Katie Oleksak watch the serve during the game against Wyoming. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

 

The Rams’ junior class includes two-time Mountain West Player of the Year Katie Oleksak and Paulina Hougaard-Jensen, who ended last season with the second-best hitting percentage in the nation at .471. As freshmen, the class went up against a breakout Kentucky team who is the 10-seed this season and knocked off the Rams in the first round of 2016. 

Last season, better results came as the budding sophomore class swept Big-10 foe, the University of Michigan in the first round before falling to Final Four-bound Stanford in the second round. 

“We kind of thought we were gonna be put in Stanford again,” Oleksak said. “Which would be a fun challenge, but you know then again they’re ranked first. So it is nice to know we are in Pullman, Washington and that it is a very winnable outcome.” 

The Rams will remain in Fort Collins preparing for their matchup with the Volunteers until Wednesday evening before traveling to Pullman. Their first round matchup against the Volunteers will start at 4 p.m. local time in the Bohler Gymnasium.

Bryan Buck can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @TalkingBuck.