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Heartbreaker in Moby: Rams volleyball reverse swept

Malaya+Jones+%281%29+and+Karina+Leber+%2842%29+jump+up+to+block+the+ball+from+opponents+Utah+State+Oct.+26.+Colorado+State+University+volleyball+hosted+a+pink+out+game+to+show+their+support+for+fighting+for+a+cure+for+cancer.+
Collegian | Paige molenkamp
Malaya Jones (1) and Karina Leber (42) jump up to block the ball from opponents Utah State Oct. 26. Colorado State University volleyball hosted a pink out game to show their support for fighting for a cure for cancer.

Malaya Jones and Colorado State shot out of a rocket to begin their match against the top team in the conference, Utah State.

Jones was racking up kills left and right, Naeemah Weathers was dominating the competition and Utah State was overcome with errors. Everything seemed to be falling in their favor.

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But not everything can last forever. Despite a two-set lead, CSU fell apart piece by piece as USU gained their momentum and mounted a three-set comeback to secure a 3-2 (25-22, 25-15, 25-17, 25-23, 15-13) victory.

“They started swinging really aggressively, (and) … (Adna Mehmedovic) really turned it up,” head coach Emily Kohan said. “She’s a really talented player, and she found a whole other level, and we had a hard time containing her. For them, that was the big difference-maker.”

It looked like it was all over for the Aggies in the second set of the match. The Rams came sprinting out of the gates, taking a lead early on and not relinquishing once, leading by as much as 11 after a Utah State attack error.

“We have such a good offensive group,” Jones said. “I’m happy that we’re all playing now at a consistent level.”

USU’s frustration with their performance continued to grow and grow throughout the second set. Multiple errors combined with great defensive plays from CSU resulted in the Aggies hitting just .053 for the set.

“We’re on a quest to get all five (starters) going really hot,” Kohan said. 

The star of the show for the Rams early on was Jones. Racking up 22 kills on the night, her dominant attack style quickly overwhelmed her opponents and helped her squad cruise to a victory in the first two sets. That’s when everything started to crumble for the Rams.

As the third set began, the Aggies gained some positive momentum early and quickly made things difficult for Colorado State. The team combined to hit .533 for the set, dwarfing CSU’s .206. Tatum Stall shone for Utah State, hitting .316 with 19 kills.

“We were all in our heads,” Jones said. “I think we just got caught up in the intensity, and it was too much.”

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The Aggies adapted their game plan, putting triple blockers on Jones to keep her as subdued as possible. The Rams’ attack slowed considerably from that point on. They scored only 17 in the third set, as well as hitting below .200 for the final two sets. 

“(Malaya) is a really really aggressive player,” Kohan said. “It’s either (going to be) a really beautiful block or a really beautiful kill, and I think their block found a little bit of a beat on her.” 

Despite their tough loss, the Rams fought until the end. Emery Herman helped set up crucial kills, logging 52 assists on the night and helped to keep the Rams fighting throughout the entire match. 

The final sets of the match remained competitive. Low attacking percentages as well as strong defensive performances from each team brought the sets down to their final points. The Rams seemed to be leading a comeback in the fourth, but a kill from Mehmedovic sealed the deal, sending the match to five sets, where CSU would eventually lose 13-15.

Kohan holds hope for her squad. The team had huge success in shutting down the Aggies’ top killer Shelby Capllonch, who finished with a mere .030 hitting percentage. The Rams performance was a testament to their defensive prowess and a good sign if the Rams have to face the Aggies again in the Mountain West tournament.  

“You hope that when you play them for the third time in November that you find an extra level of motivation to be able to finish it,” Kohan said. “We hope that we can learn from it, grow from it and be good when it really matters.”  

The Rams (12-10, 6-5 MW) look to bounce back with a win as they continue their three game home stand at noon this Saturday, Oct. 28, against Boise State (11-9, 7-3 MW).

Will Engle can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @willengle44.

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