Fresno State volleyball defeats Colorado State in conference home opener

Fresno State volleyball team celebrates victory against Colorado State on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, at the Save Mart Center. (Courtesy of Fresno State Athletics)

The Bulldogs broke their two-game losing streak in the Mountain West play, defeating the Colorado State Rams 3-1. Fresno State improved their record to 5-6 overall and 1-2 MW. 

The Bulldogs started the first set fast, taking an 11-5 lead off of two kills by Savanah Smith, Amaria Kelley, and Ella Rud and a service ace by Freshman Brooke Cowie. Colorado State was forced to call a timeout. 

The Rams were able to get back two points, but that didn’t amount to much as the ‘Dogs pushed their lead 16-8 with a kill by Grace Doyle and Desiree Sukhov and an ace by Mikayla Weiss. The ‘Dogs capitalized on service and attacking errors by the Rams. Once again forcing the Rams to call a timeout, Colorado State went on a 5-3 run on a kill and ace by Kennedy Stanford. Fresno State led 19-13. 

The Bulldogs scored two more points making their lead 21-13. However, Colorado State went on a 6-2 run and cut the lead to four at 23-19 off two kills by Annie Sullivan and a kill by Karina Leber. Fresno State also had three attack errors. The Bulldogs then took a timeout and came out with back-to-back points with a kill by Doyle to take the opening set of the match 25-19.

Starting the second set well again, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 12-6 lead on two kills by Sukhov, Smith, and Rud and an ace by Doyle as well. They didn’t stop there as they continued their 5-1 run with a kill by Rud and an ace by Weiss. The Rams had a few errors on the service and attacking to make it a 17-7 Fresno State lead. 

Colorado State was forced to call a timeout after the big run by the Bulldogs, and after the timeout, both teams kept trading points in a back and forth match. The ‘Dogs increased their score with a 21-10 lead. The Rams weren’t able to get any closer, committing four errors to help Fresno State go on to win the second set 25-14. 

After dominating the first two sets, it looked to be a Fresno State sweep. 

“They’re a good team and we knew they were going to play well in the third and fourth set,” Fresno State setter Julia Handy said. “After sets one and two, everything had been going our way and we were reminding each other to stay focused and persistent.”

Despite taking the first two sets, The third set started rough for the Bulldogs as they went down 4-0. Still down 11-5, the Bulldogs went on a 4-0 run making it 11-9 with kills by Kelley and Rud – forcing the Rams to take a timeout. 

Fresno State eventually tied it at 14 with four kills by Kelley and one by Doyle. Colorado State then went on a 4-1 run of their own on two kills by Jacqi Van Liefde and back-to-back service aces by Sasha Colombo, taking the lead 18-15. After calling a timeout, the Bulldogs did not come out firing as they went down 23-17, with the Rams then going on a 5-2 run.

The Bulldogs were able to get back-to-back points on a kill by Kelley and an attack error by the Rams to bring it within four points. But Colorado State scored back-to-back points on two attacking errors by the Bulldogs, winning the third set 25-19. 

After not getting the sweep, the Bulldogs looked to win the match in four sets. 

After a back and forth start, the teams ended up tied at nine. The Bulldogs then went on a 3-0 scoring run to make it 12-9 on a service ace by Doyle and a serving and attack error by the Rams – forcing them to take a timeout. 

With Fresno State pushing it to a 15-10 lead on a kill each by Sukhov and Smith, the Rams answered right back with a 3-0 run of their own on a kill by Ciera Pritchard and two attacking errors by the Bulldogs. Out of a timeout, the ‘Dogs scored three unanswered points, taking an 18-13 lead on a service ace by Sukhov and a kill by Kelley. 

Fresno State outside hitter Savanah Smith records 11 kills against Colorado State on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, at the Save Mart Center. (Courtesy of Fresno State Athletics)

Colorado State went off for a 6-2 run with two kills by Stanford and Colombo, and a kill each by Leber and Van Liefde. The Rams were down only one point now at 20-19. Each team traded kills with the Bulldogs taking their lead out to 23-21 on kills by Rud, Smith and Sukhov.  

The Rams did answer back with a kill by Stanford and an attack error by the Bulldogs to make it 24-23. Coming out of a timeout, Fresno State took two out of the last three points and got a kill by Kelley and a service ace by Sukhov to win the final set 26-24 and take the match 4-1. 

The leaders of the night were Kelley with 13 kills, Weiss with four aces, Kasey Purry with a career-best eight blocks, Weiss was the leader in assists with 15, and Sukhov with 15 digs.  

“It was definitely a relief to finish it in 4. We are always talking about making plays to win in end-of-game situations,” Handy said “We had to have a lot of courage to take big swings when it was close at the end and I was really proud of our determination.”   

Handy also credited Thursday’s win to Bulldog middle blocker Grace Doyle for her defense in the middles and outsides. Doyle also served well with a total of two SAs, two blocks, and four block assists. 

“I thought we had a bunch of opportunities to win and it was kind of a new lineup for us tonight and so they embraced the challenge” head coach Johnathan Winder said. “We served well and passed pretty well and that was a big change for us to do certain tasks a little bit better.” 

Winder said they’re planning to watch film to prepare for their next game against Wyoming.

“We have to keep getting better every day and not be satisfied that we won one game, we still have 15 more matches to go,” Winder said. 

The next game for the Bulldogs will be against Wyoming back at the Save Mart Center on Saturday, Oct. 2, at 12 p.m. 

Previous Story

Is Windows 11 Essential?

Next Story Big Fresno Fair back in-person with new attractions article thumbnail mt-3

Big Fresno Fair back in-person with new attractions