Typically, when a team loses four of its top players to graduation (including three which received some form of all-league accolades), the following year could be viewed as a rebuilding season. That's not the case at Sacramento State, where the team's roster is comprised of nine returners and six newcomers, two of which are transfers from Div. I institutions.
Despite the team battling a series of injuries to half its starters, especially late in the year, the Hornets finished the 2011 season with a 17-15 overall record and a 10-6 mark in the conference. That was good enough for a third-place finish in the Big Sky, and a conference tournament berth. The program has improved its conference record three straight years, and last season's 10-6 mark was the team's best since the 2007 season.
Among this year's returners are team co-captains Janelle Currey and Jessie Genger, who will both likely garner a starting role at outside hitter. Currey is one of three returning starters, along with junior rightside hitter Kayla Beal and junior setter Hannah Hettinga. Currey is the most decorated returner, having started all 96 matches of her career. In fact, the fourth-year senior already has 1,080 career kills and 1,305 digs, becoming the fourth player in school history to reach the 1,000 kill/1,000 dig plateau prior to her senior season.
Also back in 2012 are senior defensive specialist Sydney Kordic, senior middle blocker Olivia Moss and junior setter Katie Aprile. Each of the seven players that received time on the court last year had substantial playing roles. In addition, two players that took a redshirt last year (senior setter Alex Diemer and sophomore middle blocker  Ashley Newcomb) will be back.
Always a sound defensive unit over the years, Sacramento State should continue to remain strong in that area in 2012. In fact, the Hornets finished 2011 ranked ninth in the nation in digs per set (18.39) and 13th in blocks per set (2.76). They were the only squad in the nation to rank among the top 35 teams in both categories, and each mark ranked first in the Big Sky Conference.
Another trend the Hornets look to continue this season is team's dominance of league opposition at home. Sacramento State has combined for a 13-3 record over the last two years against Big Sky competition when playing at Colberg Court, including three-set routs last season of the conference's first (Northern Colorado) and second place (Portland State) squads.
According to fifth-year head coach Ruben Volta, the Hornets will likely employ a 6-2 offense this season where the setter will always be in the back row allowing the offense to have three front row attackers during all rotations. The team will attempt to improve upon last year's totals of 11.93 kills per set and .171 hitting percentage, marks which ranked in the bottom half of the Big Sky. 
This year's schedule includes 30 regular-season matches, including 13 at home, 13 on the road, and four at neutral sites. With the expansion of the Big Sky to include new members North Dakota and Southern Utah, Sacramento State will now play 20 league matches this year after playing 16 each of the previous six seasons. The Hornets open conference play on Sept. 13 against Eastern Washington, the earliest Sacramento State has begun the Big Sky portion of the schedule since joining the league in 1996.


Name Yr. Ht. Hometown/Current School
5 Hannah Hettinga Jr. 5-9 Boise, Idaho/Capital HS
6 Katie Aprile Jr. 5-7 Escalon, Calif./Escalon HS
14 Alex Diemer Sr. 5-8 Rocklin, Calif./Washington State

Sacramento State has three setters on the roster, and all could see time at the position this year. That includes juniors Katie Aprile and Hannah Hettinga who each received playing time in last year's modified 5-1 offensive attack. Both will be leaned on heavily in 2012 as head coach Ruben Volta plans to use both players in what will likely be a 6-2 offensive attack.
Entering her fourth season with the team (medical hardship in 2010), Hettinga received the majority of last season's starts (21) at setter while finishing with averages of 4.75 assists and 1.82 digs per set. She upped those numbers to 4.95 assists and 1.92 digs against conference opposition.
Aprile, who appeared in 23 matches last year, has career averages of 4.57 assists and 1.66 digs per set in two seasons with the Hornets. Both Aprile and Hettinga shared time at setter last season with  Anna Schoener, who will not be back after graduating in the spring.
Rounding out the list of setters is senior Alex Diemer. A transfer from Washington State prior to last year, Diemer did not play in any matches in 2011 per NCAA transfer rules. A local product from Rocklin, Diemer played two seasons at Washington State (2009-10) and one year at Boise State (2008).


Name Yr. Ht. Hometown/Current School
3 Jessie Genger Sr. 5-11 Kent, Wash./Gonzaga
8 Lauren Aikels Fr. 5-11 San Diego, Calif./Westview HS
9 Kiley Mansfield So. 6-2 Chico, Calif./New Mexico State
11 Sloan Lovett Fr. 5-9 Durango, Colo./Durango HS
12 Janelle Currey Sr. 5-10 Rocklin, Calif./Rocklin HS
13 Kayla Beal Jr. 5-11 Dixon, Calif./Dixon HS

Sacramento State has four players that will see time at outside hitter this year, including seniors Janelle Currey and Jessie Genger. Currey has started every match the last three years at outside hitter while Genger will slide into a starting role after playing primarily on the right side last year.
Currey will once again serve as the one of the team's primary passers and will look to further expand an already impressive career that has seen the Rocklin product post career averages of 2.86 kills and 3.46 digs per set. Genger appeared in all but two matches last year while posting averages of 1.34 kills and 0.92 digs per set. The Kent, Wash., native transferred from Gonzaga prior to last season.
On the right side, junior Kayla Beal returns for her third season in the Green and Gold, while Div. I transfer Kiley Mansfield will also see substantial time at the position. Despite battling a knee injury throughout the 2011 season, Beal appeared in 30 matches (23 starts) while posting averages of 2.32 kills, 0.96 blocks and 2.87 points per set. Mansfield will be a sophomore after playing her freshman season (2011) at New Mexico State where she appeared in 16 matches for an Aggie squad that went 23-10 overall and 10-4 in the Western Athletic Conference.
A pair of freshmen round out the list of outside hitters, comprised of Lauren Aikels (San Diego, Calif.) and Sloan Lovett (Durango, Colo.). Aikels was a four-year starter on Westview High School's varsity squad while garnering all-Palomar League accolades on three occasions. Lovett was a four-year starting varsity outside hitter for Durango High School in Colorado, and was a first team all-state and unanimous Southwestern League MVP choice her senior season.


Name Yr. Ht. Hometown/Current School
2 Olivia Moss Sr. 6-2 Monument, Colo./Lewis Palmer HS
7 Ashley Newcomb So. 6-2 El Paso, Texas/Franklin HS
10 Chelcy Motes Jr. 6-0 Thatcher, Ariz./CSU Bakersfield
16 Chanel Coleman Sr. 5-10 Elk Grove, Calif./Simpson University

Sacramento State lost both its starting middle blockers (Kelsey Elston, Maddison Thivierge) to graduation, making it a three-way battle for this year's starting spots between senior Olivia Moss, junior Chelcy Motesand sophomore Ashley Newcomb. Transfer Chanel Coleman, who will be a senior, could also see time at the position.
The longest tenured player on the Hornets, Moss enters her fifth season (medical hardship in 2009) with the Green and Gold. Her blocks per set average has increased every year of her career, culminating in a personal best 1.09 last season. 
Newcomb took a redshirt last year after a 2010 freshman campaign in which she appeared in 24 of 32 matches, averaging 0.49 kills and 0.77 blocks per set.
A transfer from CSU Bakersfield, Motes spent the last two seasons as a starting middle blocker for the Roadrunners. The Thatcher, Ariz., native posted averages of 1.16 kills and 0.71 blocks per set last season. Motes will be a graduate student at Sacramento State after earning her bachelor's degree in English from CSU Bakersfield in just two years.
Coleman is a transfer from Simpson University in Redding where the Elk Grove, Calif., product was a first team all-conference selection in 2010 after averaging 2.31 kills and 0.56 blocks per set.


Name Yr. Ht. Hometown/Current School
1 Katelyn Ivy Fr. 5-9 Rocklin, Calif./Rocklin HS
15 Sydney Kordic Sr. 5-8 San Ramon, Calif./California HS

For the first time in four seasons, Sacramento State will have a new libero. Three-year starter Breanne Menees, who is the owner of 1,948 career digs (second most in school history), graduated last season opening the door for fourth-year senior Sydney Kordic to take over the position. Kordic possesses one of the best serves on the team and has averaged 2.49 digs per set at right back during her three-year career thus far. 
True freshman Katelyn Ivy will likely play at defensive specialist. The Rocklin High School product was a three-time first team all-Sierra Foothill League selection, and two-time first team all-Metro choice. As a senior, she was also named the league's co-MVP.