Mountain West champions again, CSU takes home several season awards

Luke Zahlmann

After finishing atop the Mountain West conference for the eighth time in the last nine years, the Colorado State volleyball team was given multiple awards following their 23-9 season.

Once again, junior setter Katie Oleksak was named the conference’s top player, her second time in as many years. Oleksak is the first to win back-to-back MW Player of the Year awards for the program since Danielle Minch in 2009-10.

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Oleksak finished atop the conference once again in both assists (1239) and assists per set (11.58). The overall mark ranked 23rd in the nation, with the average at 13th.

Minch, previously a leading hitter of the Rams, saw her single-season kills record fall this year to redshirt sophomore Breana Runnels. Runnels was named an All-Conference winner for the second straight year, with an MW Newcomer of the Year award as well last season.

On the year, Runnels accrued a team-high 433 kills on a .226 hitting percentage. Her total kills mark ranked third in the conference, with her 4.05 kills per set ranking second. 

Breana Runnels hits during the game against Fresno State. The Rams swept the Bulldogs in three sets. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

Joining Runnels on the All-Conference squad was Oleksak, junior Paulina Hougaard-Jensen and redshirt junior Kirstie Hillyer. The accolade was the third-straight for Hillyer and Oleksak, with Hougaard-Jensen earning her second in a row.

Hillyer and Hougaard-Jensen led the Rams on both ends of the floor from middle blocker, finishing with 323 and 277 kills respectively. The two also combined for 269 total blocks, with Hougaard-Jensen tallying 1.3 blocks per set, good for 33rd in the nation.

Leading the conference’s top players was Coach Tom Hilbert who was named MW Coach of the Year. The award was his 11th at the helm of the Rams, his 16th overall in his 26 seasons as a head coach.

In his four seasons heading the University of Idaho volleyball program, Hilbert was named the Big Sky Coach of the Year in each. 

The Rams will head to Pullman, Washington this weekend to take on the University of Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, their 22nd straight appearance under the guidance of Hilbert.

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