SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento State sand volleyball team will open its second collegiate campaign tonight when the Hornets travel to Moraga to take on Saint Mary's at 4 p.m. The sport of sand volleyball, which is an emerging NCAA sport, made its collegiate debut in 2012.
Tonight will mark one of just five matches the Hornets will play away from their home facility, the Sacramento Softball Complex. Of the team's 12 matches, seven will come at home, including an eight-team, five-match tournament the Hornets are hosting April 4-6. After tonight's contest, the Hornets do not compete again until opening the tournament on April 4 against Cal Poly.
Sacramento State is coming off its inaugural 2013 season in which the team finished with a 2-6 overall record. However, four of those six losses came by 3-2 scores, and both of the team's victories came against California. Tonight will also mark the first match of the sand season for Saint Mary's, which cracked the national top 10 a year ago and sent one of its doubles teams, Jordan Shaw and Dalas Dodd, to the AVCA National Championships. The Hornets lost at home to Saint Mary's last season by a 5-0 score, the only time Sacramento State was swept all year.
The Hornets will have a different look from a year ago as three of the five doubles teams will not be back in 2014. This year's doubles squads will consist of Katie Aprile and Kayla Beal at No. 1, Sloan Lovett and Lauren Aikels at No. 2, Morgan Stanley and Madeline Cannon at No. 3, Chelcy Motes and Lexie Skalbeck at No. 4, and Courtney Dietrich and Kendall LaVine at No. 5. The teams of Aprile/Beal and Lovett/Aikels are back from a season ago, while Stanley, Cannon, Skalbeck, Dietrich and LaVine are playing their first sand matches in a Hornet uniform.
Overall, of the team's 12 players from a year ago, only five return, comprised of Motes, Beal, Aprile, Lovett and Aikels. Among the six newcomers include Kiley Mansfield, who is currently out with a knee injury but could return to action next month.
"We lost three of our five (doubles) teams from a year ago, so we have a fairly new squad," Sacramento State co-head coach Jason Borchin said. "We've gone back to the basics in teaching the game of sand volleyball and the team has done a good job of picking up all the skills. We have a tough match tonight against Saint Mary's, but it will be a nice test to see where we are at, what we need to work on, and we can use it as a building block for our tournament in a couple weeks."
Sand volleyball became Sacramento State's 21st sport on March 7, 2013, and though the sport is still in its infant stage, it has already benefitted the players in multiple ways.
"The sand forces players to learn how to manage the game on their own," Hornet co-head coach Ruben Volta said. "They have to perform every skill of volleyball, and I think there is definitely a carryover to the indoor game. The sport helps the players' overall volleyball IQ and awareness on the court. You have middles that pass on serve receive, setters and liberos have to hit, and everyone has to play every skill. In the process, they became more well rounded volleyball players."
After tonight's match, the team does not play again until hosting both Cal Poly (3 p.m.) and San Francisco (6 p.m.) on Friday, April 4. The team will also take on California and Santa Clara on April 5, and Boise State on April 6 as part of the three-day tournament.
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