CSU volleyball drops first tournament match, unable to advance

Colorado+State+University+volleyball+Head+Coach+Tom+Hilbert+coaches+players+from+the+bench+in+the+second+set+Nov.+6.+%28Photo+by+Lucy+Morantz%29

Colorado State University volleyball Head Coach Tom Hilbert coaches players from the bench in the second set Nov. 6. (Photo by Lucy Morantz)

Tyler Meguire, Sports Reporter

The Colorado State University Rams volleyball team played a close match against host University of Nevada, Las Vegas but did not overcome road struggles.

The Rams had a first-round bye in the 2021 Mountain West Women’s Volleyball Championship. While CSU was preparing for either the UNLV Rebels or the University of New Mexico Lobos, the MW was handing out several awards to the Rams.

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Annie Sullivan was awarded Newcomer of the Year. Sullivan finished the season with 308.5 points, 279 kills, 56 digs and 47 blocks.

CSU also received a program-tying six MW All-Conference honorees. Sullivan and Sasha Colombo were awarded All-Conference honorable mentions. Colombo led the Rams in blocks with 82, had the second-most service aces on the team with 31 and had 144 kills.

Kennedy Stanford, Alexa Roumeliotis, Ciera Pritchard and Karina Leber were all named to the All-Conference Team.

Colorado State will host the National Invitational Volleyball Championship and will play in the first round at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2.”

Stanford led the Rams in kills with 330, ranked seventh in the MW for kills and had 144 digs. Roumeliotis led the Rams with 424 digs, had 20 or more digs in six matches this season, had the second-most assists on the team with 80 and had 30 service aces. Pritchard led the Rams in assists with 1,008, led in service aces with 42, was second in digs with 205 and had 49 blocks. Leber finished the season third in kills with 233 and had a hitting percentage of 0.333 with 77 blocks.

Championship tournament

The No. 1 Rams finished at the top of the MW with a 14-4 conference record. The No. 2 Utah State University Aggies also finished at the top of the MW with a 14-4 conference record. Both teams received a first-round bye in the tournament. The Aggies played the winner of the No. 6 Boise State University/No. 3 San Jose State University match in the semifinals. The Rams played the winner of No. 4 UNLV/No. 5 UNM in the semifinals.

UNLV won a close game in five sets against UNM. Since the MW championship is hosted by UNLV this year, the Rebels had some home-court advantage. Unfortunately for CSU, the Rams have been less dominant when they are away from Moby Arena. Their last matchup against the Rebels was Oct. 23 at Moby Arena, and the Rams swept 27-25, 25-21 and 29-27.

No. 1 CSU versus No. 4 UNLV

Both teams went back and forth in the first set, and neither was able to pull out ahead. Midway through the set, the Rams went up 16-12, but the Rebels fought back and tied it up. UNLV picked up the pace and found themselves up 24-22 and ready to close out the set. However, CSU scored four straight points to claim the set 26-24 and build momentum.

The Rebels halted the Rams’ momentum early in the second set by scoring in bunches. UNLV went up 10-3 before CSU could get anything going. But the Rams slowly came back and made it a two-point game at 16-14. In this set, however, UNLV built on their lead instead of letting it get away and won 25-19.

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In set three, the Rams flipped the script and scored five straight points out of the gates. The Rebels tied things up at nine, but the Rams quickly regained the lead. After pulling away from the tie at nine, the Rams held the lead for the remainder of the set, winning 25-20.

Both teams nailed down in the fourth set, not letting either gain a huge lead right away. The Rams and Rebels traded points, and neither gained a substantial lead until late. It was tied at 19 when UNLV scored three straight points. CSU grabbed a point to stop the run but could not do anything else. The Rebels scored another three-point streak to win 25-20 and force a fifth set.

In the fifth set, the Rebels controlled the entire time. UNLV went up 10-3 early, and the Rams would have had to put up points quickly to make it a competitive fifth set. After going up 10-3, both teams traded points. The Rebels slowly closed it out and won 15-8 to advance to the MW championship.

Team comparison (UNLV – CSU):

Points: 89 – 70

Kills: 68 – 54

Aces: 7 – 9

Blocks: 14 – 7

Assists: 63 – 47

Digs: 63 – 44

CSU categorical leaders:

Kills: Stanford (18)

Aces: Pritchard (3)

Blocks: Sullivan (3)

Assists: Pritchard (40)

Digs: Alyssa Bert (19)

Colorado State will host the National Invitational Volleyball Championship and will play in the first round at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2.

Reach Tyler Meguire at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @TMeguire.