Dec. 5, 2009

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - The Colorado State volleyball team did something it hadn't accomplished in six seasons on Friday night at Moby Arena, when the Rams defeated Washington, 3-1, to earn a trip to the regional semifinal of the NCAA tournament.

In front of 2,750 raucous fans at Moby Arena, the Rams stormed out to a 2-0 lead on the Huskies, a perennial power from the Pac-10 conference, and used a match-high 19 kills from Danielle Minch and 13 more from Jacque Davisson to hold on for the 3-1 victory, stunning the 64-team tournament's No. 6 seed, UW.

"We just came out fired up," said Minch of the Rams' quick start. "They're a great team and we came out wanting to play great."

The Rams did just that, but it was the maturity and composure of the team that really set the CSU apart.

"They just continue to achieve and compete," said Head Coach Tom Hilbert. "We came out and we played with a lot of aggression and maturity. We were the ones that stayed composed tonight and I can't say enough about this crowd."

With the crowd firmly behind CSU, and the noise and altitude affecting Washington's serves, the Rams bounced back from a 25-21 setback in the third set to clinch the match 25-19 behind five kills each from Davisson and Minch in Set 4.

Washington committed 16 service errors in the match to go along with three aces, while the Rams held a distinct advantage, tallying four aces to just three mistakes from the service line.

"I'm very excited, I'm shaking," said senior Tessa Nelson. "That was perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better year."

Nelson, a native of Balaton, Minn., just 166 miles away from the regional site in Minneapolis, tallied eight kills for the Rams, to go along with three blocks, tying for team-high honors. Redshirt sophomore Megan Plourde, who grew up less than 40 miles away from Minneapolis in Somerset, Wis., also notched three blocks, as did Katelyn Steffan, native of Dickinson, N.D., 522 miles from Minneapolis.

Defensively, the Rams held Washington to .225 hitting, including a percentage of .000 in the opening set. Senior libero Katelin Batten tallied a match-high 18 digs, while Davisson topped off a double-double performance with 14 digs of her own. Junior Audrey Hemmings added eight digs and freshman Dana Cranston tallied seven, to go along with six assists.

Sophomore setter Evan Sanders led the Rams with 39 assists on the night, as the Rams hit .254 and tallied 55 kills, while giving away just 52 to Washington.

The victory avenges NCAA losses to the Huskies in 2002, 2005 and 2006, and gives the Rams a fifth consecutive victory over a ranked opponent at Moby Arena dating back to 2007.

Washington, who was a set away from the final four last season, had dispatched No. 5 UCLA and No. 6 Stanford in the past month.

CSU now awaits the winner of Saturday's Minnesota-Tennessee bout. If the No. 11-seed Golden Gophers can beat the Lady Vols on Tennessee's home court in Knoxville, Minnesota will host the Rams at the Sports Pavilion on the Twin Cities campus Friday night.

The last time the Rams were in the Sweet 16 was 2003, when they lost in the regional semifinal to Florida.