Rams volleyball overcome early struggles behind stellar play from Sullivan

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Collegian | Mykyta Botkins

Colorado State University volleyball players celebrate after scoring a point during the CSU game against Florida Gulf Coast University Sept. 2. Colorado State won 3-1.

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

The Colorado State University Rams volleyball team took on the San Diego State University Aztecs in their annual State Pride game on Thursday. Despite some miscues early on that gave the Aztecs a 1-0 lead, the Rams came back to win the next three sets to take the match 3-1, 21-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-18.

Senior hitter Annie Sullivan was the spark plug to the Rams’ victory with her stellar swing and solid defense. She set a personal season-best in kills with 17 on the night and came close to her season-high in blocks, with four in the contest.

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Early on, it was all Aztecs, as impressive ball movement set up opportunities for plays to get by the Rams. CSU was able to jump out to a 6-2 lead, but later found themselves in a 17-11 hole.

“That first set was very uninspiring,” head coach Tom Hilbert said. “We served pretty well, San Diego State was just passing well. I think it frustrates our team and they think they got to do something different and they don’t.”

The Rams ended the first set hitting .000, a figure that would steadily improve through the second and third sets. While the Rams’ offense struggled early on, the blocking figures began to shift momentum their way until the level of attack increased enough to score more points and win sets.

“We blocked the ball pretty well today, much better than we did when we played them last time,” Hilbert said. “I was pleased about that.”

Once the attack recouped, the Rams found more and more opportunities leading to offensive points. Junior hitter Kennedy Stanford had a quiet 16 kills in the match, but Sullivan’s 17 were the difference maker from the second set on.

“I think it was just great sets from Ciera (Pritchard)… one thing that we practice a lot is hitting hard and high, so I was trying to do that,” Sullivan said. 

Sullivan’s four blocks on the night came close to her season-high of six, and was a point of emphasis for a Rams team that struggled early on. 

“Blocking is another thing that we as a team try and work on a lot, and I specifically have been trying to get better on,” Sullivan said. “Just trying to line up better and my middles help me be in good positions, too, when they’re closing.”

The Rams improve to 16-6 on the season, and are a little less than a month out from the Mountain West Conference tournament, which is set to be held in Fort Collins on Nov. 23-25. Next on the schedule, though, is a home match against the 6-17 overall California State University, Fresno Bulldogs on Saturday, Oct. 29.

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

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