Rams volleyball starts season 2-0 for 1st time in 6 years

Leah Cackowski

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

For the first time since 2016, the Colorado State University Rams volleyball team has kicked off the season 2-0.

After a night full of electric plays, MVP chants and intensely close sets, the Rams will exit their first weekend of gameplay happy and unbeaten.

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Coming into the match, the University of California, Santa Barbara Gauchos already played a match against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Greeley, Colorado this morning. The Gauchos lost to the Tar Heels in straight sets and were looking to avenge their shortcomings in Fort Collins against the Rams.

It was clear from early on the Gauchos came to play hard against the Rams, keeping the score close halfway into the set at 13-13. The Rams, coming off a slow start, were then able to score five straight points. UCSB was unable to respond, and the Rams took the first set 25-18.

The second set was much closer — the Gauchos threatened to win the set when they took a 25-24 lead. The star Rams duo junior Karina Leber and senior Jacqi Van Liefde had other plans, averaging a 69% hitting rate for the match. With a three-point rally, the Rams stole the second set 27-25.

“It’s kind of crazy because we only have Monday and Wednesday to practice for three matches. We know how to play volleyball, and we’re excited for the teams that are to come, so I think we’re going to be just fine.” –Jacqi Van Liefde, senior outside hitter

Up two sets to none, the third set brought in the MVP chants. They were for junior outside hitter Kennedy Stanford, who made multiple crowd-wowing plays during the first two sets, including one acrobatic dig, winning that point with a spike right after. The jam-packed student section rewarded her efforts with MVP chants as she was up to serve.

The Rams would not enjoy the same success in the third set, however. The Gauchos got out to an early 8-5 lead that the Rams could not come back from, eventually losing the set 25-18. Head coach Tom Hilbert attributed their third set woes to simple errors in execution and the adjustments UCSB were able to make after going down two sets to zero.

“We just kind of let (the Gauchos’ adjustments) disrupt us,” Hilbert said. “In volleyball, it’s hard to come back, especially if you don’t block. … You can only come back if you serve tough and block well, and we weren’t doing either one of those things.”

For the fourth set, the Rams made adjustments of their own, and they were able to pull out a 25-21 victory to secure the match. The winning point was a thrilling rally that lasted well over a minute, capped by a block by Stanford.

For Van Liefde, it was all smiles following the game in which she led the Rams in points and was tied for the most kills on the team for the night. Satisfied with her team’s performance over the weekend, she and the rest of the Rams are already looking toward a jam-packed four-game home stand next week that starts against the University of Northern Colorado on Tuesday, Aug. 30.

“It’s kind of crazy because we only have Monday and Wednesday to practice for three matches,” Van Liefde said. “We know how to play volleyball, and we’re excited for the teams that are to come, so I think we’re going to be just fine.”

Reach Braidon Nourse at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @BraidonNourse.

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