Sacramento State will begin the 2013 season with two new starting outside hitters, two new starting middle blockers and a new libero. In fact, the only two returning players that started more than eight matches last season are team co-captains Hannah Hettinga (setter) and Kayla Beal (rightside hitter).
That's four starters and the libero gone from a senior-laden 2012 squad, which contributed to the Hornets losing 60 percent of their offensive production in kills and 66 percent of their defensive production in digs from a year ago. Mix in the fact that both starting outside hitter positions, one of the middle blocker spots and possibly libero could all be inhabited by an underclassman, and, on paper, there could be cause for concern.
Not so. Sacramento State does return eight players, and seven of those returners started at least one match during the 2012 season. One of those players, middle blocker Chelcy Motes, started the final six matches of the season, and outside hitters Sloan Lovett and Lauren Aikels both started a handful of matches as freshmen. So even though the team lost its fair share of starters from a year ago, the Hornets do possess a number of players who were good enough to garner starts in 2012.
In addition, the Hornets welcome a talented recruiting class that includes five freshmen, and as a group, have shown well in preseason practices. In fact, of those five freshmen, four are in the mix for a starting spot in 2013.
Although Sacramento State posted a 12-18 overall record and an 8-12 mark in the Big Sky Conference a season ago, the team got better as the year progressed. The Hornets won each of their final three, and five of their last eight matches of the season to thrust themselves into a possible spot in the six-team conference postseason tournament. However, the Hornets were eliminated from contention on the final day of the regular season when Montana State knocked off Montana to jump into sixth place. Had Montana State lost that matchup, Sacramento State would have claimed the No. 6 seed in the tournament.
Two big reasons for the Hornets' resurgence late in the season were Beal and Hettinga, who both sparkled during the last month of the year. In fact, the athletic Beal led the team in kills in six of the last nine matches of the season while Hettinga had at least 44 assists in five of the last seven matches. That included a career-high 59 assists in a home win over Northern Arizona.
Both Hettinga and Beal are part of a four-player senior class that includes Motes and setter/defensive specialist Katie Aprile. All four players will have a big impact on the team's fortunes this season as Motes will likely start at middle blocker and Aprile will be on the floor at libero, defensive specialist or setter.
The other four returners include Aikels and Lovett, junior rightside hitter Kiley Mansfield and sophomore defensive specialist Katelyn Ivy. Mansfield, however, will not play this season while recovering from a severe knee injury she suffered last year at Montana.
Traditionally a sound passing and defensive unit, Sacramento State should remain strong in those areas this year. In 2012, the Hornets easily led the Big Sky and finished 13th in the nation in blocks per set (2.90). In addition, the team averaged 15.57 digs per set, which wasn't as high an average as years past, but still ranked fourth in the 11-member Big Sky. According to head coach Ruben Volta, passing was a question mark heading into the season, but those concerns were quickly erased during preseason practices where the team routinely passed for a high rating. In fact, the team's depth of players that can adequately play the back row could turn out to be one of the Hornets' biggest strengths according to Volta.
Offensively, Sacramento State will likely use a more traditional 5-1 offensive attack after playing with 6-2 and modified 5-1 alignments the last few years. Offensive production was down in 2012 as the team finished eighth in the Big Sky in both kills per set (11.91) and hitting percentage (.177). That is an area the Hornets must improve upon if they want to be in postseason contention at the end of the season.
This year's schedule includes 31 regular-season matches, including 13 at home, 13 on the road, and five on neutral floors. For the second straight year, the Hornets will play 20 league matches as the Big Sky expanded to 11 teams in 2012 with the addition of North Dakota and Southern Utah. The Hornets open conference play on Sept. 19 at Eastern Washington, and will play eight of their first 12 league matches at Colberg Court.
||Hannah Hettinga||Sr.||5-9||Boise, Idaho
||Katie Aprile||Sr.||5-7||Escalon, Calif.
||Rachel Linden||Fr.||5-11||Walnut Creek, Calif.|
Sacramento State has three setters on the roster, highlighted by seniors Hannah Hettinga and Katie Aprile. Hettinga will get the starting nod this year while Aprile will back up the position while also playing defensive specialist and possibly libero. Freshman walk-on Rachel Linden rounds out the list of Hornet setters.
Hettinga, who is a fifth-year senior (medical hardship in 2010) and team co-captain, has played in 85 career matches in the Green and Gold. The Boise, Idaho, native has gotten better every year of her career and currently ranks ninth all-time in Sacramento State history with 1,571 assists.
Aprile is listed as a setter, but will likely log the majority of her playing time in the back row as a defensive player. The Escalon, Calif., native was one of five players to appear in all 30 matches last season with some of that time spent at right back. She posted double figures in assists nine times last season and had at least seven digs on 10 occasions.
Linden, who hails from the Bay Area (Walnut Creek, Calif.), was the starting setter and team captain for the 2012 Las Lomas High School squad that won the CIF Div. II North Coast Section championship. She was named first team all-league, second team all-East Bay and team MVP after averaging 9.5 assists, 2.7 digs and 0.6 aces per set.
||So.||5-11||San Diego, Calif.
|11||Sloan Lovett||So.||5-9||Durango, Colo.|
|13||Kayla Beal||Sr.||5-11||Dixon, Calif.|
Sacramento State has four players that will see time at outside or rightside hitter this year, including senior co-captain Kayla Beal, sophomores Lauren Aikels and Sloan Lovett, and freshman Morgan Stanley. Beal has locked up the starting nod on the right side while the other three will battle for the two starting outside hitter spots.
Beal is the most decorated of the group, having earned second team all-Big Sky honors last year after starting all 30 matches and appearing in all 119 sets. She averaged 2.69 kills and 1.12 blocks per set, and increased those averages to 3.01 kills and 1.14 blocks against Big Sky competition. Among league leaders (conference matches only), she ranked sixth in points (3.78 per set) and blocks, and 10th in kills. Over the team's final nine matches of the season, the Dixon, Calif., native hit a team-high .343 with 3.46 kills and 1.21 blocks per set.
Aikels appeared in 16 matches, including three starts during her freshman season while finishing with season averages of 1.29 kills, 0.58 digs, 0.32 blocks and 1.69 points per set. The San Diego native posted a season-high 12 kills against Portland State, and had eight kills, six digs, three aces and a .467 hitting percentage against Eastern Washington.
Lovett appeared in 23 matches during her 2012 freshman campaign, which included four starts and 55 sets played. The Durango, Colo., native averaged 1.25 kills, 0.51 digs, 0.27 blocks and 1.50 points per set. She posted double figures in kills three times during a six-match span from Sept. 20-Oct. 6, which included a season-high 12 kills at home against both Idaho State and Weber State.
Stanley brings an impressive all-around game to Sacramento State after helping Chaparral High School (Parker, Colo.) to a pair of state championships and a four-year combined record of 108-13 overall and 43-2 in league play. As a senior in 2012, the Parker, Colo., native was named honorable mention all-state and first team all-league after averaging 4.4 kills, 2.5 digs, 0.5 blocks and 0.4 aces per set.
Junior Kiley Mansfield, who appeared in 12 matches last year at rightside hitter after transferring from New Mexico State, will not play this season while recovering from a knee injury she suffered midway through the 2012 season.
||Chelcy Motes||Sr.||6-0||Thatcher, Ariz.
Middle blocker is the thinnest position on the team as only three players are listed at the position. All three will receive ample playing time this year as senior Chelcy Motes will likely earn the starting nod at one of the two spots. The other starting spot is up for grabs between redshirt freshman Kendall LaVine and true freshman Courtney Dietrich.
After playing just 22 sets during the team's first 24 matches last season, the energetic Motes started at middle blocker each of the final six matches of the season and averaged 1.32 kills per set while hitting .271. Overall, she appeared in 17 matches, including eight starts and 50 sets played. The Thatcher, Ariz., native hit better then .310 in four of the final five matches of the season and posted a season-best 10 blocks at home against Big Sky regular season champion Portland State.
LaVine redshirted last season at West Virginia before deciding to transfer to Sacramento State during the offseason. At 6-feet, 3-inches, LaVine is the tallest player on the team. The Boulder, Colo., native did not begin playing volleyball until her freshman year at Fairview High School in Boulder. By her senior season, she was named team captain and MVP after finishing the year as the squad's leader in blocks and third on the team in kills.
The athletic Dietrich was a three-sport star at Chelan High School (Chelan, Wash.) where she was a four-year varsity starter for the Mountain Goats in volleyball, basketball and softball. She helped lead the Chelan volleyball squad to four consecutive 1A Caribou Trail League championships (2009-12), three straight district titles (2009-11) and a state championship in 2010. The Chelan native was a first team all-state selection and the league player of the year during both her junior and senior seasons.
||Katie Aprile||Sr.||5-7||Escalon, Calif.
Sacramento State has two defensive specialists listed on the roster in sophomore Katelyn Ivy and freshman Lexie Skalbeck. In addition, fourth-year senior Katie Aprile will get time in the back row. All three players have never appeared in a libero jersey at Sacramento State, but one will be anointed prior to the team's first match on Aug. 31.
Ivy appeared in 20 matches (including three starts), primarily at left back, during her freshman campaign. The Rocklin, Calif., native averaged 1.16 digs per set and posted a .951 service reception percentage. In fact, Ivy did not have a reception error during the final nine matches in which she appeared. In the first start of her career, she posted season highs in assists (3), aces (3) and digs (13) at home against Idaho State.
Skalbeck played three years of varsity volleyball at Central Catholic High School in Portland, Ore., where she helped her team to a combined 94-9 overall record, a 43-2 conference mark, two state championships (2010, 2011) and three consecutive 6A Mt. Hood Conference titles. In 2012, the Portland native and two-year team captain was a first team all-conference selection as the starting libero after averaging 4.7 digs per set and 4.2 aces per match.
Aprile played in 113 of a possible 119 sets last season, and finished with averages of 2.27 assists and 1.41 digs per set. She spent a good portion of the season as one of the Hornets' two setters before being converted to a defensive specialist for the final nine matches of the year. Aprile had at least seven digs on 10 occasions, including a career-high tying 16 at home against Northern Colorado.