Colorado State volleyball sweeps Spartans to start homestand

Angel Cooper

Another day, another win for the Colorado State volleyball team as the Rams remain number one in the Mountain West Conference.

The Rams played the first match of a four game homestand Thursday night as they hosted San Jose State University. The game was set to be a tight match, and after the Rams breezed through the first set, the Spartans gave CSU a fight. However, the Rams were able to adjust themselves accordingly, as they have all season, and swept SJSU 3-0 (25-16, 25-18, 25-19).

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https://twitter.com/CSUvolleyball/status/1187570824225722368

Paulina Hougaard-Jensen stepped up for her team and asserted herself as one of the leaders Thursday night. Hougaard-Jensen’s energy stood out, and she made sure to give it her all in each play. She had 12 kills, which was the most on her team. She has been on fire lately, and her performance earned her CSU Student-Athlete of the Week honors. 

“It feels really good (being a leader),” Hougaard-Jensen said. “I’m usually not the person that leads the team, but I feel like this year, every single senior has stepped up, including Breana (Runnels). (We) are just a team of six leaders.”

Hougaard-Jensen stepped up as the Spartans were targeting Runnels during the game.

Coach Tom Hilbert had to make some adjustments because he didn’t want his team to keep struggling with rotations, and he didn’t expect the Spartans to serve as hard as they did. Hilbert mentioned how the opposition tried to attack Runnels during the match.

“Their strategy was to overload Breana (Runnels) with a lot of responsibilities in this game,” Hilbert said. “Serve her balls. Make her have to pass it and swing, and I think it worked. We have to go back and see how we have to overcome that.”

The Rams led the entire first set. They were covering each other’s backs, hitters got set up well enough to make kills and they were paying attention to where the Spartans would leave open areas. Communication and solid defense was the key to success in the first set.

The second and third sets were more challenging for CSU. In both sets, San Jose State led at the halfway point, and the Rams weren’t able to get out rotations due to hard serves from the Spartans.

Kirstie Hillyer(#13) spikes the ball down onto the San Jose State defenders
Kirstie Hillyer (13) spikes the ball down onto the San Jose State defenders during a home game. CSU won three sets to zero. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

Another player that had to step up tonight was Kirstie Hillyer. Hillyer has been making an impact, helping her team out on offense and defense. Hillyer led the team with a .625 hitting mark in the match and committed just one attack error in 16 swings.

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“We are getting into the end of our season, and each game I want to play as best as I can,” Hillyer said. 

Both Hougaard-Jensen and Hillyer led the offense as they each reached double figures with 12 and 11 kills.

CSU will be continuing their conference schedule this Saturday at Moby Arena against Nevada. Hilbert wants to make some adjustments so his team won’t struggle as they did on Thursday.

“Nevada is very good defensively, but their kill percentage is low,” Hilbert said. “We are (a) good defensive team. Our key will be to convert on digs. We gotta dig the ball and put it in the right place and let these two guys (Hougaard-Jensen and Hillyer) kill it because teams that are good defensively are going to want to know what are you going to do against me. We want to run a lot of middle, hit the ball back. … That’s how we beat them.”

Angel Cooper can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @angelcooper05.