CSU volleyball starts, finishes Ram Volleyball Classic strong

Ryan Loberger

The Ram Volleyball Classic tournament, hosted by Colorado State University, opened the season at home for the Rams, and they didn’t disappoint. The tournament offered fans their first look at the defending Mountain West champions, and CSU was able to finish with a runner-up trophy after going 2-1 on the weekend.

The maturity and how clean they play, especially at the beginning of matches, we’re not making a lot of mistakes early, and it allows us to really build up leads on people and put a lot of pressure on them.” -Coach Tom Hilbert on what has impressed him about his team through the first three games.

Game 2 vs the University of California 


After sweeping the University of Chicago on Friday morning, the Rams returned to action Saturday afternoon to battle the Golden Bears. The two teams swapped the first two sets, with Cal winning the first by a score of 25-19 and CSU taking the second set by a score of 25-23. 

CSU trailed in the second set by a score of 16-21 and battled back to take the lead at 23-22. On the next point, referees ruled that CSU hit the ball out of bounds on an attack; the replay looked as if the ball stayed in play. However, the officials’ ruling went against the Rams and set up a 23-23 tie.  

The Rams captured a 24-23 lead with a kill on the ensuing play and followed it up with another kill to take the second set 25-23. 

Cal would capture the next two sets 25-19 and 25-10 to seal the victory.

Senior Katie Oleksak finished the game with 42 assists and three kills, including a highlight-reel kill during the beginning of the third set.

Junior Breana Runnels finished with 12 kills, while seniors Paulina Hougaard-Jensen and Kristie Hilyer both had 11 kills. 

Errors cost the Rams the contest. CSU’s hitters had issues getting past the Bears’ blockers. Cal recorded 69 digs to the Rams’ 33 and had 17 blocks in the match. When the Rams were able to get the ball across the net, they were unable to keep their hits inbounds. 

Game 3 vs the University of Oklahoma

Saturday night was a White Out for the Ram faithful, and the CSU student section did not disappoint. Feeding off the energy from the crowd, the Rams fought their way to a 3-0 sweep of the Sooners, led by senior Hougaard-Jensen, who recorded five blocks and 12 kills in the Rams’ second victory of the season. 


After CSU slipped up against Cal, Hougaard-Jensen had a better game later in the evening. 

“It was definitely tough to bounce back,” Hougaard-Jensen said. “But I feel like we all have so much experience now, we’ve all agreed that ‘Hey, it’s a new day.’ We went home, took a nap and it’s a new day.”   

Coach Tom Hilbert was happy with the way his team responded, but when CSU had OU on the ropes, the Sooners were able to creep back into the game. CSU had a commanding 20-9 lead, but OU worked their way back to get the score to 23-19 and almost forced a fourth set. 

“We played really well (in) set one,” Hilbert said. “About 70% of set two, the third set, I thought both teams were not very good. We hit 0.320 with nine hitting errors and still won a set. … It was probably fatigue; you’re playing a second match of the day, both tough. I would like to be a little bit better than we were in the third set.” 

The Rams are back in action next week as they travel to Fort Worth, Texas, for the Fight In The Fort. CSU will take on Florida Atlantic Friday, Sept. 6 at noon and Texas Christian University at 6 p.m., both in Mountain time.  

“It’s a great win for us,” Hilbert said. “We learned a lot about ourselves this weekend. I thought through all three matches, some things came out that were for us to see, and we’ll get back into the gym and try to improve before we go to Texas this weekend.”

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