GREELEY, Colo. -- Andrea Spaustat (20 kills, .400 hitting percentage) and Brianna Strong (14 kills, .632 hitting percentage) helped Northern Colorado erase a 2-0 deficit and defeat Sacramento State, 3-2 (19-25, 22-25, 25-22, 25-16, 15-12), in a Big Sky Conference volleyball match Thursday evening at Colberg Court.
The Hornets won the first two sets in fairly easy fashion, but were limited to hitting percentages of .182, .043 and .188, respectively in the final three sets as Northern Colorado caught fire.
Sacramento State had a chance to finish off a three-set sweep as the two teams battled back and forth in a third set which featured 15 ties and six lead changes. With the scored tied at 22-22, a kill from Strong and back-to-back aces from Tambre Haddock ended the set and gave the Bears momentum.
Northern Colorado won the fourth set handily to force a fifth and decisive set. Things looked good early as Sacramento State jumped out to leads of 7-4 and eventually 10-8 in the fifth. However, the Bears got a kill from Spaustat and a Hornet attack error to tie the score at 10-10. Sacramento State took its final lead at 12-11 on a kill from , but Northern Colorado ran off the final four points, thanks in large part to Haddock.
Haddock had a kill to tie the score at 12-12, followed by a solo block to put the Bears up 13-12, and came up with another kill to make the score, 14-12. Strong finished things off with a kill to win the match. The Hornets led, 11-10, and had a swing to increase their lead to 12-10, but Genger slipped on a patch of sweat as she went to attack, and Sacramento State wound up losing the point.
The Hornets dropped to 9-16 overall and 5-10 in the Big Sky. The team also had its three-match home winning streak snapped. All three of the Hornets' conference losses at home have come in five sets against three of the best teams in the league (Portland State, Idaho State and Northern Colorado). The loss hurt Sacramento State in its quest to qualify for the Big Sky Tournament. The top six teams in the 11-member league reach the postseason event and the Hornets now find themselves 2.5 games back of sixth place with just five contests remaining in the regular season.
Northern Colorado improved to 17-8 overall and 10-5 in conference with the win. The Bears have now 11 of the last 12 meetings between the two programs dating back to 2007.
The Bears had seven more kills than the Hornets (71-64), hit for a higher percentage (.318-.213) and had more digs (100-84) and blocks (11.0-7.0). Northern Colorado also hit at least .278 in all five sets, including marks of .311 or better in four of the five frames.
Sacramento State received a career-high 24 kills from Genger. The senior outside hitter took an amazing 85 swings, and hit .224 with eight digs. Fellow outside hitter finished with 18 kills, a .250 hitting percentage and 20 digs (one shy of her season high). Rightside hitter had nine kills, but was limited to just one kill during the final three sets. Middle blocker had seven kills, a .294 hitting percentage and two blocks while posted a team-best four blocks. Libero finished with a match-high 26 digs, setter had 55 assists, and finished with a career-high tying 16 digs.
For Northern Colorado, Spaustat, Strong, Haddock (14) and Kelley Arnold (12) combined for 60 of the team's 71 kills. Spaustat, Strong and Marissa Hughes (seven kills, .462) all hit at least .400 in the match. Six Bears posted double figures in digs, let by 23 from Merideth Johnson.
The Hornets will play arguably their biggest match of the season on Saturday afternoon against North Dakota at 1 p.m. North Dakota is currently tied for fifth in the league standings with a 7-7 record, and is a team Sacramento State needs to catch to have a shot at a Big Sky Tournament berth.