The Sacramento State volleyball squad (5-6, 1-1) kicks off the second week of Big Sky Conference play by beginning a four-game road trip. The first two of those matches take place this week against Northern Arizona on Thursday (7 p.m. PDT) and Saturday at Southern Utah (6 p.m. PDT).
The Hornets opened the Big Sky portion of the schedule last week with a three-set sweep of Eastern Washington and a heartbreaking 3-2 loss (16-14 in the fifth set) to Portland State. Sacramento State dropped the first two sets to the Vikings on Saturday night before coming back to win the third and fourth frames, and had a match point at 14-13 in the fifth before falling.
Now the Hornets will hit the road, and grow accustomed to hotel rooms over the next five weeks. This week marks the first two matches of a stretch that will see Sacramento State play nine of its next 11 matchups on the road. Their current four-match road trip and a season-long five-game roadie (Oct. 12-22) sandwich around the team's lone two home dates (Oct. 5-6) over the next five weeks.
On Thursday, Sacramento State will play a Northern Arizona squad that is 9-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big Sky. After winning their first eight matches of the season, the Lumberjacks have dropped two of the last three. Thursday will also mark NAU's home opener. The Hornets are 29-10 all-time against Northern Arizona, but the Lumberjacks have won two straight and three of the last four meetings between the two teams in Flagstaff. Overall, each of the last three matches in the series have gone five sets with NAU coming out on top on two of those occasions. That included sweeping the Hornets in the season series last year for the first time ever.
On Saturday, the Hornets will take on Southern Utah for the first time in school history. Southern Utah and North Dakota joined the Big Sky this season, giving the conference 11 teams. The Thunderbirds will bring a 4-8 overall record and a 1-1 Big Sky mark into the week, and will play a non-conference home matchup against Utah Valley on Tuesday before taking on the Hornets on Saturday. Southern Utah has dropped four of its last five matches with the lone victory during that span coming last week at Weber State (3-1). This week will mark the Thunderbirds' first matches at home.
Like every Big Sky Conference matchup this year (home or road), a free video stream and live stats will be offered for both matches this week. In addition, former Hornet volleyball play-by-play man J.D. Fox will return to the microphone for Thursday's match at Northern Arizona. Audio for that match is free and can be found by clicking here.
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUPS
Sacramento State at Northern Arizona
Thursday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. PDT
Rolle Activity Center - Flagstaff, Ariz.
Coverage: Live Stats, Live Audio, Live Video
Series Record: Sacramento State leads, 29-10
Last Meeting: L, 3-2, in Flagstaff - Oct. 29, 2011
Sacramento State at Southern Utah
Saturday, Sept. 22, at 6 p.m. PDT
Centrum Arena - Cedar City, Utah
Coverage: Live Stats, Live Video
Series Record: First Meeting
- Through the first six matches of the season, Sacramento State was hitting a very respectable .237 as a team. To provide a comparison, the Hornets haven't hit better than .235 as a team since the 1995 season. However, over the last five matches, the team has combined to hit .151, which includes sub -180 hitting percentages on four occasions. Among other reasons, the five-game stretch has coincided with a lower leg injury suffered by starting outside hitter and team co-captain . Through the first two weeks of the season, Genger was looking like a possible all-conference candidate, hitting .250 with a conference-leading 4.45 kills per set. However, the injury became a big issue during the third week of the season as Genger tried to gut it out. However, the injury forced head coach to pull her in the second set of Thursday's Eastern Washington match and she did not play Saturday against Portland State.
- Sacramento State is currently first in the Big Sky Conference and fourth in the nation with an average of 3.07 blocks per set. In fact, that mark is more than a half block per set better than any other Big Sky team. This comes after the Hornets finished 13th in the nation in that category last year with 2.76 per set. Senior middle blocker leads the way with a league-leading 1.43 blocks per set, the 21st best mark in the nation. The Hornets have outblocked their opponent in all but one match this year (Utah Valley), and have recorded at least 10.0 team blocks on eight occasions. Sacramento State now has three players ranking among the top five in the Big Sky in blocks per set, comprised of Moss (1st), (3rd, 1.20) and (T-5th, 1.05). That doesn't even count middle blocker , who, in her first substantial playing time of the season on Saturday, recorded 10 blocks, the most by a Hornet individual this year.
- Sacramento State is first in the Big Sky, and 34th in the nation with an average of 1.59 aces per set. The Hornets have 65 aces, including a team-high 18 from and 17 from . (7), (6), (6) and (5) have also contributed to the large ace total.
- The Hornets have already gained plenty of experience playing in close sets this season. Sacramento State has combined to outscore the opposition by exactly four points (691-687), and the team has already played in 14 different sets that were decided by two points. In fact, nearly 35 percent of the team's 41 sets played have resulted in two-point outcomes. Sacramento State has been victorious in seven of those sets.
- True freshman outside hitter has done a nice job as one of the team's two primary outside hitters after being thrust into the rotation in the second set of Thursday's Eastern Washington match. In the seven sets Aikels has played for the injured , the San Diego native is averaging 2.86 kills, 1.29 digs, 0.43 blocks and 0.57 aces per set to go along with a .250 hitting percentage. She has committed just five errors in 60 total attacks during that stretch, and finished with eight kills against Eastern Washington and 12 more against Portland State.
- Since returning from a shoulder injury two weeks ago, rightside hitter has been a key player in the Hornets' wins over that stretch. Sacramento State is 2-0 when the New Mexico State transfer has at least eight kills, and 0-3 when she finishes under that mark. Mansfield, who hits one of the heavier balls on the team, had eight kills and a .438 hitting percentage at Fresno State, and nine kills and a .261 hitting percentage against Eastern Washington.
- All 15 players on Sacramento State's roster have played this season, and six of those players have started every match, comprised of at outside hitter, and at middle blocker, at rightside hitter, at setter and at libero. had started each of the first 10 matches of the season at outside hitter, but a leg injury forced her to miss Saturday's game against Portland State.
- Outside hitter has now started each of the Hornets' last 107 matches dating back to the first match of her career in 2009. The fourth-year senior, three-time team captain and three-time Big Sky all-academic selection is quietly inching her way towards Sacramento State's career top 10 chart in both digs and kills. She now has 1,438 career digs and 1,209 kills, leaving her just 17 digs and 64 kills shy of cracking into the top 10 in both categories.
- After redshirting last season, middle blocker has gotten her sophomore season off to an impressive start. The El Paso, Texas, native is averaging 1.45 kills and 1.20 blocks per set while hitting .290. Her nine blocks against UC Davis were a career high, and she had three straight aces that helped fuel a comeback from a 13-8 fifth-set deficit against Fresno State two weeks ago. She has now recorded at least five blocks in three straight matches after entering the season with a match high of three blocks.