SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Rightside hitter had a match-high 20 kills, including three in the fifth set, and outside hitter added 18 kills to lead Sacramento State to a 3-2 (20-25, 25-20, 25-10, 23-25, 15-10) victory over Montana in a Big Sky Conference volleyball matchup Saturday evening at Colberg Court.
Tonight marked the final match of the regular season for the Hornets (12-18, 8-12), who will wait until Monday to learn their playoff fate. The top six teams in the 11-member Big Sky qualify for the conference tournament which will take place next week (Nov. 23-24) in Greeley, Colo.
Sacramento State, which is currently a half game behind sixth-place Montana State (8-11), needs Montana to beat Montana State on Monday in Missoula to earn the playoff spot. Should Montana State defeat Montana, the Hornets would be eliminated from playoff contention, and Montana State would get the final spot. The Bobcats and Grizzlies will square off at 6 p.m. PST, and the match can be seen live on Big Sky TV.
Southern Utah (8-12) also won tonight to move into a tie with Sacramento State for seventh place. However, the Thunderbirds were eliminated from playoff contention. Should Montana State lose Monday night, all three teams (Sacramento State, Montana State and Southern Utah) would finish with 8-12 records, but the Hornets would gain the tiebreaker based on a better head-to-head matchup amongst the three teams. Sacramento State went a combined 3-1 against Southern Utah and Montana State this year, while Southern Utah went 2-2, and Montana State 1-3.
The Hornets have now faced must-win situations in three straight matches, and have been victorious in each. That included a pair of five-set grinders this week, one of which was a huge win Thursday night over Montana State.
"I'm happy with the way we finished the regular season, especially with our backs against the wall," Sacramento State head coach said. "We've put ourselves in a position to get into the tournament, and we'll definitely be watching on Monday night. If we make the tournament, I like our chances. We've played a lot of close matches with the top teams in the league, and I think there is a lot to be excited about."
Tonight marked the fifth time in the last seven matches the Hornets have gone to five sets, and the team has been victorious on three of those occasions. In 10 Big Sky home matches this year, Sacramento State played into a fifth set six times.
In tonight's fifth frame, the Hornets won the first three points and never trailed the entire way. Montana did come back to tie the score on four occasions, but Sacramento State took control with a 4-0 run after the match had been tied at 8-8 to take control. Sacramento State had nine kills without an error in 17 attacks (.529 hitting percentage), and received kills from five different players in the frame. That included Beal's three kills in four attempts. and had two kills in the set while and each added one kill.
Statistically, the Hornets dominated the match, finishing with more kills (67-58), assists (64-53), aces (8-5), digs (90-83) and team blocks (14.0-10.0) while also hitting for a higher hitting percentage (.263-.170).
Beal's 20 kills came with a .386 hitting percentage, and she also finished with two aces, four blocks and a career-high 11 digs. She had just three errors in 44 attacks, and the 20 kills were just two shy of her career best. Genger's 18 kills accompanied a career-high 19 digs, and Currey had 13 kills and 12 digs to round out the three Hornets with double figures in kills.
Four different Sacramento State starters hit better than .290, comprised of Beal, Motes (.333, seven kills, three blocks), Hettinga (.500, three kills, 48 assists, 15 digs and three blocks) and Moss (.294, six kills, match-high tying seven blocks). Libero led all players with 28 digs while also chipping in a career-high 11 assists. Kordic now has 1,512 career digs to move into ninth place on Sacramento State's career top 10 list.
For Montana, Brooke Bray led the way with 19 kills and a .429 hitting percentage while Kayla Reno had 14 kills and 19 digs, and Paige Brnstiter tallied 13 kills.
Sacramento State finished the season with an 8-5 home record, and three of those five losses came in five sets.