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Rams split Border War, move to 4-4 on the season

Karina Leber spikes the ball towards her opponents
Karina Leber (42) spikes the ball toward her opponents during Colorado State University’s season opening volleyball game versus the United States Air Force Academy Feb. 5. CSU defeats Air Force 3-1. (Devin Cornelius | The Collegian)

It was another mixed bag of results for the Colorado State University volleyball team as they split their series against the University of Wyoming in this year’s Border War.

Rewind to last season, CSU was one of only two teams to beat the Cowgirls in Laramie, Wyoming. The bar high was high for the Rams coming into the first game of the series.

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Before getting swept by Boise State University in their most recent series, the Cowgirls were 4-0 on the season, so getting hot early was imperative to CSU coming out with a win. Ice cold would have been a better indication of the Rams’ start as Wyoming took a quick 5-0 lead.

Through an unwillingness to give up set one, the Rams were able to stay tight with the Cowgirls. The offense began to find its feet and behind back-to-back kills from Breana Runnels, the Rams would take their first lead of the night 22-21. Despite their slow start, CSU would steal set one from the Cowgirls 30-28.

Early in the second set, it was the Rams’ turn to jump to a small lead, but Wyoming would tie the game 13-13. Luckily, 6-foot-3-inch freshman Karina Leber helped keep the Rams in front by smashing four of her five kills of the night in set two. CSU would claim the set 25-20

With a sweep in sight, CSU went into set three ready to finish the night. The Rams kept a strong lead throughout the entire set, pulling ahead with a number of kills from Runnels, Kennedy Stanford, Jacqi Van Liefde and Sasha Colombo.

The Rams were ready to end the night and did so quickly after taking the final set 25-12; Runnels and Van Liefde both ended the night with double-digit kills with 18 and 10, respectively. Impressively, the Rams finished the game with a season-high .355 hitting average. 

Come Saturday night’s match, CSU came in hot for set one but could not keep their energy consistent from the night before. Both teams exchanged leads early in the game before CSU pulled away to a 20-15 lead. However, Wyoming mounted a comeback, tying the game at 24-24. The Cowgirls would successfully take down the Rams, winning set one 27-25.  

After a rough set two that saw the Rams lose 25-19, the Rams refused to add a third sweep to their record. After Wyoming took a 7-3 lead early on in set three, head coach Tom Hilbert called a timeout to try and get his team back on track.

Looking to get the Rams back in rhythm, Runnels came out of the timeout with a rallying kill point. After several great blocks by Leber and Van Liefde, the Rams concluded the set on a five-point run and would push the match to a fourth set, winning set three 25-23.

Set four saw the Rams stretch ahead and take a promising lead of 17-11. Although the Rams would finish set four with their highest kill percentage of the second game, the Rams ultimately lost their lead after the Cowgirls went on a six-point run and took the final set 25-22. Despite the fact that the Rams had a great night Friday, they struggled to continue being a threat early in Saturday’s sets. The Cowgirls would stay consistent with their record of ultimately winning games when taking the first set.

The Rams will go back on the road after a break this week, heading to California to play the 1-5 San José State University Spartans on March 12.

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Taylor Paumen can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @TayTayPau.

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About the Contributor
Taylor Paumen
Taylor Paumen, Content Managing Editor
Taylor Paumen is the 2022-23 content managing editor for The Collegian and has been with the newspaper since February 2021. She started out as a volleyball recap reporter and was promoted three months later to sports director. Now going into her fourth year, she is working on finishing a major in journalism and media communication and a minor in sports management.  As The Collegian's content managing editor, Paumen takes care of approving content for the week, guiding the directors and editors of each desk and occasionally supplying her time to the cannabis and sports desks when they let her. When she first joined The Collegian, her time covering volleyball games was tough, as COVID-19 had just taken over. Games were fanless, but she knew it was where she wanted to be. Now as content managing editor, she loves learning things outside of the sports world and strengthening her skills. Now, fans are back, and working in the newsroom to create a weekly paper is her new passion. Paumen is most grateful for the memories created with the entire Collegian team and their work together to create the best content.  When coming to Colorado State University, Paumen started as a health and exercise science major but quickly tried to find something new. She found writing and sports were her passions, and The Collegian welcomed her with open arms, reassuring her that this is where she was meant to be.

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