Rams volleyball ready to dig deep this season

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Collegian | Lucy Morantz

Middle blocker Karina Leber (42) blocks the ball against the University of Wyoming as setter Ciera Pritchard (11) looks on Sept. 28, 2021.

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

The Colorado State University Rams volleyball team is poised to do some major damage this season. Despite losing talented players to graduation and the transfer portal after last season’s end, the Rams who remain have grown closer as a team and are ready to give playing time to a transfer acquisition of their own.

The Rams will start the season with a tough nonconference schedule that begins with a home opener against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a team that last year beat the Rams in a heart-breaking reverse sweep. In the nonconference schedule CSU will also face talented opponents in Florida Gulf Coast University, Alabama State University and back-to-back games against the University of Colorado Boulder. Head coach Tom Hilbert is prepared for the challenges that await the Rams in the busy start to their season.

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This will be CSU’s first full volleyball season during which crowds will not be limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic since the 2019 campaign.”

“The only healthy way to look at that is we just have to go out and compete and see what we’re good at and what we’re not, and try to adjust,” Hilbert said. “I’m smart enough to know that sometimes those things don’t go your way when you play that tough (schedule), but the fact is it’ll make us better. … We will be better by the time we start conference because we played all those really good teams.”

The first six games of the season are at home, which junior middle blocker Karina Leber thinks will be an advantage for the team. This will be CSU’s first full volleyball season during which crowds will not be limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic since the 2019 campaign.

“Our home crowd, to play in front of I think, will just give us confidence going into our out-of-state games,” Leber said.

This year’s squad is heavy on older talent like Leber, as about half the players are entering their junior year. As the team matures together and improves, the ceiling is high for the Rams.

“I think (the team can go) very high,” said junior outside hitter Kennedy Stanford. “We have so much depth with our positions that we can throw out a bunch of different lineups that would really work, and it helps take pressure off of people.”

The Rams have also brought in younger talent from the transfer portal, namely powerful redshirt sophomore middle blocker Malaya Jones from the University of Southern California. Jones transferred to CSU in 2021, but NCAA transfer rules rendered her ineligible for competition last season. 

“Malaya Jones, … we have discovered, hits the ball pretty hard,” Hilbert said. “We feel as if she’d be good at banging against right side blockers, so she’s going to play on the left.”

Hilbert is hopeful for the spark Jones can provide with her power down the middle as well as from the outside.

The Rams will begin their campaign at Moby Arena against UNC Aug. 26. To conclude the season, Moby Arena will also host the Mountain West Conference Tournament, which starts Wednesday, Nov. 23 with a champion crowned that Friday.

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

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