HONOLULU, Hawaii — Colorado State’s season came to an end Friday night after falling to Hawaii 3-1 (25-22, 22-25, 16-25, 18-25) in the NCAA regional quarterfinals.
The Rams (24-6) were virtually even with Hawaii (31-1) through the first two sets, and the two teams entered the locker room tied at 1-1, just the third time this season that Hawaii has been tied at intermission when playing at the Stan Sheriff Center. But, playing in front of a crowd of 8,624 — the fifth-largest nationally this season — Hawaii came out in full force in set three, and finished the Rams in the fourth set to continue its 26-match win streak and move on to next week’s regional semifinals.
“We started this match off doing the things we do well,” CSU head coach Tom Hilbert said. “We put some service pressure on them, we blocked well. The difference between the first two sets and the last two was that we were more aggressive in terms of our offense, and our pressure was better in the first two sets.”
Junior Dana Cranston led the Rams with 14 kills on .324 hitting, also tallying 12 blocks for her sixth double-double of the season. Senior Katelyn Steffan, playing in her final collegiate match, had 10 kills and six digs, while junior Megan Plourde tallied seven kills and seven blocks.
The Rams were outhit .192-.149 and were even in blocks, with both teams totaling 10.
The Rams took the early momentum in a critical first set. CSU came out fierce, going on a 5-0 run to take an 8-4 lead and cause Hawaii to burn an early timeout. But the Rainbow Wahine responded with seven of nine to take an 11-10 lead. Hawaii continued to apply pressure, taking a 16-12 advantage — its biggest of the set. But, trailing 21-19, CSU got three consecutive points, capped with a Steffan ace, to take a 22-21 edge, its first lead since 12-11.Hawaii got the next point, but setter Deedra Foss won a fight at the net, followed by a Hawaii error and a Cranston kill to give CSU three consecutive points and the first-set victory at 25-22.
The second set was a battle from start to finish, as the two teams were tied at each point from 8-8 to 17-17 during an incredible stretch where neither team could rattle off more than two consecutive points. But three CSU errors in a row allowed the Rainbow Warriors to take a 21-17 lead and the Rams were never able to fully recover. CSU got within one point, 23-22, but a huge Jane Croson kill to end a long rally made it 24-22, and Hawaii won the set on the next point.
“I thought the second set was pivotal,” Hilbert said. “Offensively we were pretty good. That was a very winnable situation that we kind of let get away.”
The Rainbow Wahine carried over their late set-two momentum, coming out of the intermission on fire, taking early leads of 7-2 and 12-5, before extending the margin to 10 at 19-9. The Rams used a short 3-1 run, but couldn’t find an answer, falling 25-16. Despite recording just two total blocks through the first two sets, Hawaii outblocked CSU in the third set 5-2.
“They obviously played much better in sets 3 and 4,” Hilbert said of Hawaii. “They changed and alternated some shots and got some roll shots and tips, and we didn’t respond offensively very well to that. As we got to the last set, the environment and everything, I think, got to us a little bit, and we didn’t play very well.
CSU used an 8-2 run early in the fourth set to take a 10-6 lead, but coming out of a timeout, Hawaii captured four consecutive points to tie the score at 10-10. The game was then tied at each point through 15, when Hawaii took three points in a row to grab an 18-15 edge. Hawaii led by at least three from there on out, taking the set, 25-18, and the match.