CSU volleyball clinches 4th consecutive Mountain West title with win over New Mexico

It wasn’t easy or a runaway, but the CSU volleyball team will be going to its 18th consecutive NCAA tournament by virtue of winning the 2012 Mountain West title.

The Rams defeated New Mexico 3-1 Friday night in Moby Arena to avenge a September loss and take the title over San Diego State.

“Four championships in a row is pretty darn special,” CSU coach Tom Hilbert said. “There are athletes in a lot of sports at all levels who don’t have the record of excellence that these four kids do.”

New Mexico didn’t make it simple, winning the first set 25-19 and out-hitting the Rams .314-.161.

But CSU responded furiously in the second with a 25-8 victory. It was the third time the Rams held an opponent to single digit points in a set this season.

Senior Dana Cranston lead with eight kills in the second set and finished tied for a match high with 17.

CSU won the final two sets by a combined score of 50-40 and held New Mexico’s hitting percentage under .300 for both sets.

“They hit more errors because our block did what it needed to do,” Hilbert said.

Senior middle blockers Breion Paige and Megan Plourde combined for 19 kills and 10 blocks in the match, but neither hit as effectively as Hilbert would have liked due to New Mexico’s defense.

The Lobos had 54 digs and six blocks in the match.

While Friday’s title was CSU’s fourth in a row, it differs greatly from the previous three in how it was achieved.

The Rams needed to battle San Diego State for the top spot and played in must-win matches since October.

“It’s been the hardest, and it’s made it more special because we’ve had to fight so hard for it,” senior libero Izzy Gaulia said. “We did something big here today.”

CSU will find out its NCAA tournament seeding and opponent Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at CB and Potts, where the team will host a watch party that is open to the public.

“We feel pretty good going into it,” senior middle blocker Breion Paige said. “We just have to know that our practices we’re focusing and going with that mindset that we have to play at a really high level because the teams are really good.”