CSU volleyball sets attendance record in home opener

The Colorado State volleyball team opened the 2018 season with a loss to No. 12 Illinois, but the program set a single-game record with 7,745 fans packed into Moby Arena to witness the Friday night match. CSU broke its previous attendance record that was set in 2014 against Wisconsin (7,018).

After the Rams dropped the first two sets to Illinois, CSU stormed back and forced the match to five frames before suffering a loss in the final frame. 

“We learned a lot tonight," head coach Tom Hilbert said. "We learned a lot about our team and we will go and try and improve on areas that we didn’t play really well in. We started this match out playing very well I thought, but missing a lot of serves. We are missing those because we are asking our players to come out of their comfort zones while serving. We need to take those risks against teams like Illinois.”

 

Illinois started the match using big scoring runs, which included a six-point streak to lead 20-14 and the scored the last five points of the set to take a 1-0 advantage. Both teams battled in the second frame, but again, Illinois used a nine-point tear to lead 20-11 before closing the set scoring the last four points.

Following the break the Rams’ offense rebounded as they played alongside the Illini as the set was tied 18-18. CSU used a scoring run itself – scoring the last seven points of the frame, which included three-consecutive blocks, to keep the match alive.

“It was just ‘play Ram volleyball, control what we can control on our side," Breana Runnels said. "We can be dominators every point if we want to and have that mind set. I think the first two sets we were a little frazzled and we weren’t completely in our comfort zone, but we came back and put up a good fight against a good team.”

The fourth set was extremely tight and saw 12 tie scores, including at 19-19 before the Rams took a 22-19 advantage late. Illinois wouldn’t go down quietly as it went on a 5-1 run to tie the set at 24-24. CSU forced a final set as it finished the frame scoring three of the last four points.

In the final set, the Illini took a 9-5 advantage and kept its offense rolling taking the set and match, 15-11.

Although it was a tough loss Friday, the Rams felt confident about how they performed against Illinois. Runnels recorder her first double-double of the season with 17 kills and 13 digs and a variety of CSU players had a big impact. Kirstie Hillyer and Paulina Hougaard-Jensen tallied nine and eight kills, respectfully. And Katie Oleksak charted 35 assists and seven digs, while Amanda Young led the back row with 16 digs, while also dishing out four assists.

“I thought this match was one of the best matches the Breana (Runnels) has ever played. She is now stepping into this huge role for us and I thought she was terrific tonight," Hilbert said. 

Colorado State hosts UNC Wilmington Saturday tomorrow morning at 11 a.m.

PHOTO: Elliott Jerge | Rocky Mountain Collegian