Despite a dominant performance from Bayfield’s Kirstie Hillyer, the Colorado State University volleyball team couldn’t get over the first-round hump of the NCAA tournament on Friday.
The Rams played the Tennessee Volunteers in the first-round game in Pullman, Washington. Behind Hillyer’s 10 kills and five blocks, the Rams took an early 2-0 lead, but the Vols would rally back in the match’s final three sets to take a 3-2 victory. CSU won the first two sets 28-26 and 25-20, but the Vols took wins of 25-18, 25-21 and 15-12 to close out the comeback win.
Hillyer, who was named to the All-Mountain West Conference team for a third consecutive season, finished with 18 kills and eight blocks, and she hit for an impressive .471 percentage. She had only two attack errors in the match. She also added two digs and an assist.
“I believe that we came out strong as a team and ready to play,” Hillyer said in a message to The Durango Herald. “Tennessee has some great athletes, and they came ready to play, as well. I think we played a good match overall, and I’m proud of the season this team has had.”
Hillyer, a 2015 graduate of Bayfield High School, wasn’t the only former Wolverine who impressed on the court for the Rams. Maddi Foutz, a 2017 BHS graduate, also started Friday’s match. The defensive specialist finished with a team-high 18 digs, and she added two assists.
The Rams finished 23-8 overall this year and went 15-3 in the Mountain West Conference to win the championship. But the season ended with a pair of five-set losses to New Mexico and No. 19 Tennessee.
Hillyer earned three MWC player of the week awards during the season. She started all 30 matches and finished with 323 kills, good for 3.02 per set. She also had 130 blocks, and her 1.21 blocks per set ranked second on the team. She led the Rams with a .357 hitting percentage.
Foutz played all 30 matches and started 25. She had 245 digs to rank second on the team. She also added 31 serving aces and 17 assists. Hillyer will return next year for her senior season, while Foutz will be a junior next year. The Rams didn’t have a senior on this year’s team and will return an experienced roster to make another run in the Mountain West Conference and NCAA tournament next year.