After playing five straight matches on the road and nine of its last 11, the Sacramento State volleyball squad (7-15, 3-9) finally returns for some home cooking over the next two weeks. The team will play a season-long four-match homestand, starting this week with games against Big Sky Conference foes Southern Utah (Thursday, Oct. 25, 7 p.m.) and Northern Arizona (Saturday, Oct. 27, 1 p.m.). Beginning with Thursday's matchup against Southern Utah, the Hornets will play four home games over a 10-day stretch.
On Thursday, fans are encouraged to wear pink in support of breast cancer awareness. Sacramento State players will be wearing pink items (including pregame warmup shirts), and a donation table will be set up at the entrance to Colberg Court with all proceeds going to Mercy General Hospital.
Saturday's game against Northern Arizona is a rare matinée (1 p.m.) as the Hornet football team will be playing at home later that day against Cal Poly at 6 p.m. Saturday will mark the first of back-to-back weekends in which the Sacramento State volleybaall and football squads will play at home on the same day. On Nov. 3, the volleyball team faces North Dakota at 1 p.m., followed by football taking on Montana State at 4 p.m.
With just eight matches remaining in the regular season, the Hornets will play six of those at home. Sacramento State has its work cut out if the team wants to avoid missing the Big Sky Tournament for just the third time since joining the league in 1996. The top six teams in the 11-member conference qualify for the postseason tournament, and the Hornets currently sit ninth, three games out of a playoff spot with a 3-9 league record. Montana State and North Dakota are tied for fifth with 6-6 conference records, and if the season ended today, the teams would take up the final two spots in the Big Sky Tournament field.
If history is any indication, it wouldn't be smart to count the Hornets out of tournament contention just yet. Sacramento State is notoriously good at home, and the team is 4-3 inside the friendly confines of the Nest this season. Since joining the conference 16 years ago, the Hornets are 108-19 when playing against a conference foe at home. The team is 2-2 in such matches this year, but both losses were five-set affairs to two of the top teams in the league (Portland State and Idaho State).
Southern Utah will enter Thursday's match with a 9-14 overall record and a 5-7 mark in conference. The Thunderbirds are currently in seventh place, one game out of a potential playoff spot. Thursday will mark just the second time the two teams have faced one another and first in Sacramento. Southern Utah, along with North Dakota, joined the Big Sky Conference for the first time this year. In the teams' matchup earlier this season on Sept. 22, the Thunderbirds defeated the Hornets in four sets in Cedar City.
Northern Arizona, which is the highest ranked team in the Big Sky at 59th according to the NCAA's RPI report, will enter Saturday's tilt with an 18-3 overall record and a 10-2 conference mark. The Lumberjacks are tied for second in the league standings with Idaho State, and have won seven matches in a row. That includes home wins last week over Weber State and Idaho State. Earlier this season, NAU defeated the Hornets in Flagstaff in four sets (25-21, 25-17, 18-25, 25-15). Sacramento State leads the all-time series between the two teams with a 29-11 record, including a 17-1 mark when playing at home. In fact, the Hornets had been 17-0 all-time against the Lumberjacks in Sacramento until losing a five-set grinder last season.
Like every match played in a Big Sky venue (home or road), a free video stream and live stats will be offered for both matches this week. In addition, live audio will be provided by play-by-play man Brian Berger for Thursday's match against Southern Utah.
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUPS
Sacramento State vs. Southern Utah
Thursday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m.
Colberg Court - Sacramento, Calif.
Coverage: Live Stats, Live Audio, Live Video
Series Record: Southern Utah Leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: L, 3-1, in Cedar City - Sept. 22, 2012
Sacramento State vs. Northern Arizona
Saturday, Oct. 27, at 1 p.m.
Colberg Court - Sacramento, Calif.
Coverage: Live Stats, Live Video
Series Record: Sacramento State Leads, 29-11
Last Meeting: L, 3-1, in Flagstaff - Sept. 20, 2012