Few schools can claim they are truly one of the best in the nation. And few teams can say they have one of the best players in the country on their team.
No. 15 Colorado State Volleyball and their star player Megan Plourde are one of the elite programs in the nation, and the team looks to improve in 2011-12.
Megan Plourde is the Rams’ rock in the middle, able to both block opponents and kill shots for points, she’s the preseason favorite for Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, yet she’s a humble and intelligent young lady.
As a sophomore last year, Plourde was named to the All-Mountain West Team, the AVCA all-West Region first team and AVCA All-American honorable mention, yet she’s not concerned with the honors.
“Personally, I don’t look at those honors as anything,” Plourde clarified. “I give credit to all my teammates because they have put me in this position and given me the opportunities that I have been given.”
Plourde was also named Academic all-MWC last year, and she emphasized that school is incredibly important to her. “Being an athlete a student is very hard, you have to have time management. School is really important to me, I always, in high school and college, school is my number one priority.
“Even though volleyball is really important to me, school is going to get me where I want to go.”
In this day and age of collegiate athletic scandals hitting the airwaves nearly every day, it’s refreshing to hear Colorado State’s best athletes are doing so well academically as well as on the court. Men’s basketball star Andy Ogide graduated with a Master’s last year while leading the Rams to the NIT, and Plourde is one of the best student athletes in the entire Mountain West.
After an amazing 2010-11 season, Plourde says her main focus is keeping her errors down, and that she enjoys both blocking and scoring, whatever helps her team win.
Being one of four juniors on the team, Plourde considers herself a leader. She leads by example quietly, not necessarily jumping all over teammates, but helping them in her own way.
“I feel like all upperclassmen are leaders in their own ways,” she explained. “Personally, I’m not one of those loud, outgoing leaders. I’m a quiet kind of leader. I try to bring energy to the court with the blocking and killing. I’m not going to be a huge celebrator, I just try to bring energy and get everyone going. I do try to motivate other players but I’m not going to yell at them.”
Head Coach Tom Hilbert likes Plourde’s leadership too. “She’s already a leader right now, she’s been a great player for two years and she’ll continue that,” he said of his starting middle blocker.
Even early in the season, as the Rams sit at 3-1, Plourde knows the MWC competition will be tough despite Colorado State winning back to back Mountain West titles and being picked to win again this year.
Coach Hilbert believes New Mexico, who beat CSU in the spring, will be the Rams’ biggest rivals and Plourde agrees. “For this upcoming year, I believe the Lobos, because BYU and Utah left and they were our rivals. So I think, yeah, New Mexico and I believe San Diego State will be tough competition for us. But I feel like everywhere we go and play, it’s a lot harder to go play at a school than playing at home. Any team we play in conference is going to be a battle.”
Plourde emphasized how important it will be for Rams fans to be out in force to support them all season, and they’ll be a fun team to watch as one of the top in the nation.
“I think we’re going to be good,” Plourde said with a reserved smile. “We have some young players that are ready to step up and they’ve been ready to step up. The outsides, Dana (Cranston), and even with (lone senior) Kate (Steffan). I think all of our players at every position, we have a lot of depth and I’m positive everyone’s ready to step up and be a better team this year than last year.”
And Megan Plourde believes her team can be even greater, and go farther in the NCAA Tournament than their Elite Eight last year.
“It would be amazing (to bring CSU it’s first volleyball title). I think we have the potential to go really far, farther than last year. We can’t take it for granted, we need to work day by day and take it one day at a time. We can’t take things for granted and make sure we keep working hard.”
The one player that will undoubtedly work hard is Plourde, and Hilbert commented on her consistency and ability to take over a game if need be.
“Megan is an extremely consistent player, a low error player and a very smart blocker,” explained Hilbert. “But, I think Megan’s consistency is good and also, Megan has a switch. And Megan can just be cruising along and we’re winning and all of the sudden we need her and that switch turns on. Anyone at the Cal State Fullerton match last year saw it. The switch turns on and she’s a different person. I’m not saying that in a negative way. She knows when to be good and she can be very, very good. I’m excited for Megan this year.”
And Rams fans are excited for their No. 15 volleyball team as well.
CSU swept all three matches in the Arkansas Invitational, beating host Arkansas, Middle Tennessee State and McNeese State in nine sets. It was the first time they started off a season with three straight sweeps since 1997.
On Monday night, the Rams suffered their first loss of the season to No. 16 Oklahoma in Norman, and look to bounce back in an extremely important and massive matchup against No. 5 Nebraska at Moby Arena on Friday night. The game takes place at 7 p.m. MT and Colorado State is hopeful to have a packed house, if not a sellout, for the game. So get your tickets and get your popcorn ready for some high-level college volleyball action in Fort Collins this Friday.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report, Swoosh Nation and Mile High Report.
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