Rams win conference outright with sweep at Nevada

After clinching a share of the Mountain West title on Wednesday, the No. 9 Rams won it outright on Saturday, sweeping Nevada (32-30, 25-21, 25-14) to improve to 28-2, 16-1 MW. It marks the sixth-consecutive season that CSU has won the MW, something never before accomplished.

“It’s great, and I’m happy for them,” Head Coach Tom Hilbert said. “But they’re still focused on next week and doing well in the NCAAs.”

Playing in their final regular-season road match, CSU’s three seniors each had spectacular performances. Kelsey Snider – who missed Wednesday’s match due to a head injury – returned to the lineup and totaled a match-most 13 kills on .619 hitting. She did not make an error (13-0-21), also adding a team-high-tying four blocks.

“She played very, very well,” Hilbert said of Snider. “She was not hitting any errors, and she was physically better than the players we were playing against. Combine those two and she hit .600.”

Joining Snider in double figures was fellow senior Marlee Reynolds (10 kills on .304 hitting) and freshman Jasmine Hanna. Senior setter Deedra Foss had 45 assists, four blocks and a service ace.

After jumping out to a 5-1 lead in Set 1 and leading late 23-20, Nevada (7-20, 4-13 MW) scored four-consecutive points to reach set point. It was the Wolf Pack’s first lead since 1-0, and while the Rams fended off set point with a Hanna kill, Nevada would hold two more. Each time, though, CSU recorded a kill to tie the score before holding its first set point opportunity at 27-26.

This time, though, Nevada kept the set going. The Wolf Pack fought off four CSU set points before a hitting error gave the Rams a 31-30 lead and a Reynolds kill sealed the set.

“The first set was unlike anything that we’ve played this year,” Hilbert said. “I was upset during it because we were not taking advantage of point-scoring opportunities, but we would turn around and side out well. We had 26 kills and hit .380, and only won by two points. We had way too many giveaway points on the other side of the ball. When we cleaned it up, we played a lot better.”

CSU’s 32 points scored were the most in a set since the 25-point scoring era began in 2008. Reynolds had eight kills in the set, while Foss totaled 24 assists.

“Marlee was outstanding,” Hilbert said. “She was playing a different type of game today, hitting a lot of out-of-system balls. She really did a nice job.”

From there, CSU took over, never trailing in sets 2 or 3. Following a 12-12 tie in the second frame, CSU used a 5-0 run to separate. Tied 3-3 in the third, CSU used a 4-0 run, which extended to 10-2, giving the Rams a 13-5 advantage.

The win was CSU’s 22nd of the season in straight sets. CSU has now won five-straight matches, and the Rams’ .933 winning percentage is the third-best in the NCAA this season.

Border War Wednesday

CSU will close the regular season Wednesday with the Border War against Wyoming. Prior to the match, CSU will recognize its three seniors, and afterward, the team will be presented the 2014 Mountain West championship trophy. Tickets are available online.

“Our team will not overlook it,” Hilbert said. “They know Wyoming is good, and I think our fans will show up to celebrate these three seniors and a conference championship. It’s Thanksgiving week, so people look for things to do. Instead of going to a movie, go to the volleyball game.”

The conference title guarantees CSU a trip to the NCAA tournament for a 20th-straight season. The team will find out its first-round opponent on Sunday, Nov. 30. Fans are invited to join the team at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop beginning at 5:45 p.m. The selection will be announced at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.