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Rams set to battle Lobos, avenge loss from last season

Nobody’s perfect, but the Colorado State volleyball team is about as close as you can get to flawless.

With a record of 10-1, the Rams are off to another great start under Coach Tom Hilbert as the team moves into conference play.

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“Going out of this preseason, we have a pretty stable ranking,” senior Katie Oleksak said. “We are confident, but we are not too confident. Conferences is a long season. We need to keep our heads high and our motivation strong.”

Player #15 spikes the ball
Colorado State University volleyball player Breana Runnels (15) hits the ball over the net despite New Mexico’s attempt to block, Nov. 17. (Collegian file photo)

The Rams currently sit ranked as the No. 17 team in the country, moving up five spots after sweeping University of Northern Colorado and Cal Poly, followed up by a dominant performance against Oregon State.

The Rams own a 3-0 record against ranked opponents this season, totaling two sweeps and a 3-2 victory, resulting in both opponents falling out of the Top 25.

Riding a nine game win streak, CSU begins the journey back to claim their third straight Mountain West title this Thursday as they host the University of New Mexico at Moby before departing to take on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas this Saturday.

The secret to the Rams’ success? Experience — this team has been there, done that in numerous situations, and Coach Hilbert has stated how impressed he is with the team’s composure during games.

“This team is kind of all business sometimes,” Hilbert said. “You don’t hear a lot of these super, jazzed, enthusiastic things, it’s more ‘Hey, keep it up.’ They’re really business-like, and I think they know how to play to a certain level and keep it there.”

As the Rams prep for New Mexico, they stick to the basics, as they have all season.

“We just had scout (Wednesday),” Oleksak said. “Which is where we watch film on them and then we kind of mimic their setting and their ways, and so all that was today in preparation. Just talking about what their players do, getting familiar with all their tendencies.”

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The Lobos are 5-7 on the year and are coming off a 2-1 finish at the North Texas Challenge. UNM defeated Kansas State 3-1, the University of North Texas 3-2 and was swept by the University of Ohio 3-0.

The Rams match up well against New Mexico and will be the favorite heading into Thursday’s match. The Rams have averaged a .264 attack percentage this season while holding their opponents to a .088 hitting percentage, which leads the nation.

The Lobos have surrendered 575 kills to opponents this year while tallying 499 kills as a team, and the Rams have held the opposition to 341 kills while converting 475.

One thing the Rams will need to account for with the Lobos are the outside hitters Lauren Twitty and Tai Bierria. Twitty is a vital part of the attack, having led the Lobos in kills the past two seasons and was named to the All Mountain West team in 2017 and All Conference in 2018.

Bierria has recorded double digit kills in five contests this season and put up 20 kills last season in a 3-2 Lobos win at Moby Arena on Nov. 17. Rams will be out for redemption as they’ll try to avenge last year’s defeat to open their conference slate.

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

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