SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento State volleyball squad (9-15, 5-9) concludes its season-long four-match homestand this week against Northern Colorado on Thursday night (7 p.m.) and North Dakota on Saturday afternoon (1 p.m.). Saturday's match is part of a doubleheader on campus that will see the Hornet football team host Montana State at 4 p.m.
Sacramento State is 2-0 on the homestand thus far, including a three-set sweep of Southern Utah last Thursday and an inspiring 3-2 comeback win over Northern Arizona on Saturday. The victory over Southern Utah was the Hornets' biggest blowout win of the year as the Thunderbirds were limited to a combined 38 points (25-15, 25-14, 25-9). Saturday saw Sacramento State overcome a 2-0 deficit for the first time all season in beating an NAU squad that had the Big Sky's highest RPI rating.
The Hornets have combined to hit .293 on the homestand with averages of 14.00 kills, 13.25 assists, 15.88 digs and 2.25 blocks per set. In addition, the team has a robust 17 aces in the two matches compared to just six for the opposition. Five Hornet starters are hitting better than .220 on the homestand, including junior rightside hitter 's .492 hitting percentage.
Sacramento State has caught fire at the right time as the team attempts to qualify for the Big Sky Tournament for the 15th time since joining the Big Sky in 1996. The top six teams in the conference standings reach the league's postseason event, and the Hornets are two games behind both Montana State and North Dakota who hold currently down fifth and sixth place with 7-7 records. However, there are only six matches remaining in the regular season, and the Hornets will likely need to go at least 4-2 over that stretch to have a chance of qualifying for a postseason berth.
Sacramento State currently holds the tiebreaker over Montana State by virtue of its victory over the Bobcats in Bozeman two weeks ag, and the two teams play again in Sacramento on Nov. 15. North Dakota, however, has the tiebreaker after beating the Hornets in four sets in Grand Forks on Sept. 29. Sacramento State could regain the all-important tiebreaker should it sweep North Dakota on Saturday, or win in four sets and wind up with a better points differential in the two matchups.
Including this week's contests, four of the Hornets' final six games will come at Colberg Court. Since joining the conference, the team is 110-19 when playing against a Big foe at home, including a 4-2 mark this season. The Hornets' two losses came in five sets to the top two teams in the Big Sky standings, Portland State (13-1) and Idaho State (12-2). Sacramento State will bring a three-match home winning streak into Thursday's contest against Northern Colorado.
The Hornets are currently ranked eighth in the nation in blocks per set (3.02) and 35th in aces per set (1.45). Libero , who has seven more aces than any other player in the Big Sky, ranks 14th nationally with an average of 0.46 aces per set. The team also has a pair of players ranking among the nation's top 115 in blocks per set, comprised of middle blocker (14th with 1.49) and rightside hitter (114th with 1.11).
Northern Colorado will bring a 16-8 overall record and a 9-5 conference mark into Thursday's contest. The Bears, who will host this year's Big Sky Tournament by virtue of winning the league title last season, currently sit fourth in the Big Sky standings. Northern Colorado has enjoyed success against the Hornets, winning 10 of the last 11 meetings between the two squads dating back to 2007. One of those wins came earlier this year in Greeley (27-25, 25-17, 25-15), and marked one of just two times Sacramento State has been swept by a conference team in 2012. Overall, Sacramento State is 8-10 in the all-time series with Northern Colorado, but does own a 6-3 record against the Bears when playing in Sacramento. The Hornets crushed the Bears last year at Colberg Court by a 25-17, 25-17, 25-16 score.
One of the biggest matches of the season for Sacramento State will come Saturday when the team faces a North Dakota squad that sits just two games ahead of the Hornets in the league standings. UND will bring a 12-13 overall record and a 7-7 conference mark into Saturday's game, and the team is 3-3 on the road against Big Sky opposition thus far. Sept. 29 marked the first-ever meeting between Sacramento State and North Dakota, and saw UND walk away with a 25-18, 19-25, 25-23, 25-22 victory in Grand Forks. Perhaps one of the low points of the season occurred during that match as the Hornets blew a 15-2 lead in the fourth set. North Dakota, along with Southern Utah, joined the Big Sky Conference this year for the first time.
Like every game 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 contest against Northern Colorado.
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUPS
Sacramento State vs. Northern Colorado
Thursday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m.
Colberg Court - Sacramento, Calif.
Coverage: Live Stats, Live Audio, Live Video
Series Record: Northern Colorado Leads, 10-8
Last Meeting: L, 3-0, in Greeley - Sept. 27, 2012
Sacramento State vs. North Dakota
Saturday, Nov. 3, at 1 p.m.
Colberg Court - Sacramento, Calif.
Coverage: Live Stats, Live Video
Series Record: North Dakota Leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: L, 3-1, in Grand Forks - Sept. 29, 2012