FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The Colorado State volleyball team clinched its 15th Mountain West Championship with a sweep over UNLV on Thursday night in Moby Arena. The Rams have won 20 overall titles (15 regular, five tournament) and eight in the last nine seasons. The victory also gives CSU its 30th NCAA Tournament appearance, including 24-consecutive seasons and every year under Head Coach Tom Hilbert.
The Rams began the match taking a 5-1, but UNLV tied the match at 10-10. Colorado State regrouped and went on an 8-1 scoring run to build an 18-12 lead – one it wouldn’t surrender as CSU took the first set, 25-17.
Both teams traded points to start the second frame as the score was even at 7-7. The Rams took a small lead and built it to five at 14-9 before extending it to 10 at 23-13 on their way to a 2-0 match lead.
UNLV looked to avoid the sweep, leading the third set, 7-4, but the Rams strung together four points to tie the frame 8-all. From there, CSU controlled the match using multiple scoring runs to earn the sweep with a 25-20 third-set score.
Coach Tom Hilbert’s opening statement…
“We did a good job blocking the middles early in the match, and then Katie Oleksak was great blocking on the right side today. She shut a bunch of people down and had a couple of really critical blocks. I was very, very pleased with how we got UNLV very off balance and shut down the things they like to do. We also hit the ball very well. It was a great overall match.”
Hilbert on clinching the Mountain West Championship…
“I was sitting on my couch when we were 3-2, talking to my daughter and she’s asking me, ‘Are we getting in the NCAA Tournament’ and I said ‘I think, because Fresno State is good, we’re going to have to win the rest of our matches’, and we won the rest of our matches. We have one more to complete that, and that’s a pretty amazing thing that this team has been able to do.”
Breana Runnels on any added pressure going into postseason…
“I wouldn’t say that there is any added pressure. After losing those two games in the beginning of season, that was the most pressure on our team. But, we’re also trying to improve throughout the whole season and especially looking forward to tournament. So, I think it’s just what can we do better each day in practice.”
Kirstie Hillyer on how the team has developed more maturity over the season…
“I definitely think so. I think that we kind of had a rocky start in the beginning, so none of us want to face that again. I think everybody, if we get down a couple points, wants to come back and play as hard as they can to get out of that. I think that does bring maturity with it.”
STAT OF THE DAY
Olivia Nicholson recorded three aces in the match, which helped Colorado State set a new record in modern scoring in aces in a season. The Rams passed last season’s record of 168 with 172 so far this season.
- Kirstie Hillyer led the Rams with 16 kills, while hitting .545 in the sweep. The middle also added three blocks.
- Breana Runnels floored 12 kills in the match, bringing her season total 410 – 17 away from setting the single-season record.
- Paulina Hougaard-Jensen added 10 kills and hit a team-best .562, while also putting up five blocks.
- Katie Oleksak dished out 37 assists and tallied three blocks.
- Sasha Colombo served tough from the service line, recording three aces and also put up a pair of blocks.
- In addition to Olivia Nicholson’s team-high three aces, the libero reached double-figure digs with 10.
- The Rams outhit the Rebels .383 – .129 and out blocked them, 9-3.
- With the sweep, the Rams clinched the Mountain West Championship in back-to-back seasons.
- The Championship is also the Rams 15th and 20th overall (15 regular, five tournament).
- The Rams have won 12-consecuive matches, including eight sweeps during that time.
- Colorado State will carry its 45-match Mountain West home winning streak into its final home match of the season.
The Rams will finish the regular season hosting New Mexico on Saturday at 7 p.m. Colorado State will celebrate its Mountain West Championship post match and honor, Sara Robinson, adopted sister of the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, prior to the match.