The Boise State volleyball team started out with the fire it needed to take down No. 23 Colorado State, but the Broncos’ upset bid fell short in a five-set showdown for the Mountain West lead Thursday night at Bronco Gym.
The Broncos had the serve on match point in the fifth set, but a service error put the ball back in the Rams’ hands, and they finished off the Broncos 21-25, 11-25, 25-23, 25-19, 17-15 to take sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
The loss ended Boise State’s 18-game conference winning streak.
“I think that was the battle that we expected. It’s disappointing. We’ve come up on the short side on a couple of really good, tough matches against ranked teams,” Boise State coach Shawn Garus said. “The thing that got away from us was our serving. We made too many errors down the stretch.”
In mid-September, the Broncos took then-No. 1 Minnesota to five sets in front of a sellout home crowd, and they entered the Colorado State match having won their past five matches.
Boise State (11-6, 4-1) opened conference play with victories over Fresno State, San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV despite playing without Mountain West and Boise State career kills leader Sierra Nobley.
“I was proud of our team for finding a way to win without Sierra on the court,” Garus said. “I think she gives us a lift when she’s out there, and she played well tonight, but it’s not a one-person show.”
Nobley, who was sidelined with an undisclosed illness, returned Thursday against the Rams (15-2, 5-0) and pounded out a match-high 24 kills to go with 12 digs for her eighth double-double of the season and 43rd of her career.
“I got back into my rhythm pretty quickly. A couple of moments I was a little bit winded, but I think that the team definitely improved without me when I was gone,” Nobley said. “They really came together and they won those four games that I was not able to participate.
“It just made us that much stronger as a team, and then I was able to complement the progress they had already made.”
While Boise State falls out of first place for now, it will get another shot at the Rams on the road Nov. 4. The winner of the Mountain West title receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“A good team was going to lose tonight and a good team was going to win. We ended up on the wrong side of it,” Garus said. “... I don’t really think that either team played well at the same time. It was a really streaky match. We were great for two sets. They were great for two sets.
“I think we just have to keep getting better and try to be a little steadier for our next opponent on Saturday.”
The Broncos have a 2 p.m. match Saturday against Wyoming at Bronco Gym.