After strong weekend, another challenge awaits CSU volleyball

Ryan Loberger

Last weekend, Colorado State volleyball finished as the runner up in their tournament due to a sweep at the hands of the University of California Golden Bears.  

After the loss, Coach Tom Hilbert and the Rams knew they had to clean up their hitting and service errors before the next game against the University of Oklahoma. The Rams made the necessary adjustments and swept OU 3-0 on the White Out game to start the season 2-1. Since that loss to Cal, CSU has not lost a set in their previous four games. 

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Breana Runnels (15), Paulina Hougaard-Jensen (11), and Olivia Nicholson (3) leap to block the incoming ball
Breana Runnels (15), Paulina Hougaard-Jensen (11) and Olivia Nicholson (3) leap to block the incoming ball as Colorado State University takes on University of Oklahoma during a White Out home game. CSU defeats OU three sets to zero. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

This weekend, the Rams traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, to take part in the Fight in the Fort tournament hosted by Texas Christian University, and the team brought their A-game.  

CSU won all three contests in straight sets 3-0, beating Florida Atlantic University, TCU and 22nd-ranked Florida State.

Katie Oleksak was named tournament MVP and was selected to the all-tournament team along with Paulina Hougaard-Jensen and Breana Runnels.

The sweep over FSU provided the Rams with their first sweep over a ranked opponent since 2017, when they swept 16th-ranked Michigan and 15th-ranked Florida State the same season.

Starting the season against out-of-conference opponents like Oklahoma and Cal seems to have paid off for the Rams.

This weekend, the Rams finished the tournament averaging a .324 team hitting mark, even hitting .464 as a team against FAU in the first game. 

This week will feature another challenge for the Rams, as they’ll play a home and home series with the University of Colorado Boulder, with the first game at Moby on Thursday. The match will be the annual Orange Out game and figures to be a competitive match.

Both teams have started off the season strong and have won games against top-25 ranked teams in the first couple weeks.

CU is a perfect 5-0 entering the game after winning both of their matches this past weekend in the Big Ten/Pac-12 challenge, sweeping the University of Iowa (25-22, 25-20, 25-23) and 5th-ranked University of Illinois (30-28, 25-19, 25-20). 

The Buffs will enter Thursday having only lost one set this season. They are currently 15-1 in sets, and the Rams are 16-3. 

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Katie Oleksak celebrates with her teammates after scoring
Katie Oleksak celebrates with her teammates after scoring against the University of Oklahoma during Colorado State University’s White Out home game. CSU defeats OU three sets to zero. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

The two teams met last season in the Colorado Classic in Boulder, and CU was able to come out on top in a 3-1 win in a closely contested game. In that matchup, the Rams showed promise on offense at times but were unable to get past the CU blockers with the sets on the line. 

CU no longer has outside hitter Alexa Smith and blocker Naghede Abu on their roster, since the pair graduated in 2018. Both Smith and Abu played key roles in the CU victory last season. Look for Oleksak and Hougaard-Jensen to do the same this year for the Rams. 

The rivalry game is set for 7 p.m. Thursday with an orange crowd filling the stands at Moby Arena. 

Ryan Loberger can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @LobergerRyan.