The Week Ahead
Sacramento State wraps up its season-high tying four-match homestand this week when the Hornets (10-11, 5-5) welcome Portland State on Friday and Eastern Washington on Saturday to Colberg Court. Start times for both matches are 7 p.m.
At the midway point of the conference season, the Hornets find themselves alone in sixth place in the 11-team Big Sky standings. North Dakota (9-1) currently owns the top spot, followed by Portland State (8-2), Northern Arizona (7-3), Idaho State (7-3) and Montana (6-4). Right behind the Hornets are Northern Colorado and Eastern Washington, who both own 4-6 records.
The top six teams in the 11-member Big Sky qualify for the league tournament (Nov. 29-30) in Portland. If the season ended today, the Hornets would qualify for the tournament as the No. 6 seed. However, 10 more matches remain on the schedule, four of which will come at home and six on the road. After this week, Sacramento State will play six of its last eight matches of the season on the road making this week's matches very important.
Portland State (11-9, 8-2) is the defending Big Sky regular season and tournament champions, and swept the Hornets earlier this season in Portland. The Vikings are 2-4 on the road this year, including 2-2 against Big Sky competition. PSU has won five straight in the series, but the Hornets are 17-3 all-time when playing the Vikings in Sacramento. Overall, the Hornets lead the series, 36-21.
Eastern Washington will enter Saturday's match with a 7-14 overall record and 4-6 league mark. One of those wins came against Sacramento State on Sept. 19 in Cheney when the Hornets opened the match by winning the first two sets handily. The Hornets are 30-15 all-time against the Eagles, including a 20-4 mark when playing in Sacramento.
Like every match the remainder of the season, both Friday and Saturday's contests can be viewed live and free on www.WatchBigSky.com. Viewers just need to create a user name and password through the website, and tune in about 5-10 minutes before the match begins. Andrew Tomsky will handle the play-by-play announcing duties for both Friday and Saturday's matchups. Live stats for both matches are available by clicking here.
Hitting For A High Percentage
Sacramento State's .240 hitting percentage is the second best mark in the Big Sky Conference, and 67th in the nation among the 334 Div. I institutions. The Hornets have not hit better than .235 in a season since the 1995 squad hit for a .259 percentage. The team has already hit better than .300 on seven occasions this year after accomplishing the feat just twice all of last season. Currently, all six of the team's starters are hitting better than .215. Sacramento State has been especially good at home, where the team is hitting .275, and has hit better than .300 in four of the last six matches.
The Tight Sets
Sacramento State has already played 14 sets that have resulted in a two-point outcome, and the team has won just four of those nail biters. However, the Hornets have won three of the last six two-point sets, none bigger than the 15-13 fifth-set win over Northern Colorado on Oct. 3.
Motes And The Home Floor
When playing at Colberg Court, no one on the Hornets has been hotter than senior Chelcy Motes. The middle blocker is hitting .402 at home with 44 kills and just nine errors in 87 attacks. Moreover, in the team's last six home matches, she is hitting a ridiculous .549 with just three errors in 51 attacks. Overall, Motes is now hitting a team-high .322 in conference play which would rank her ninth in the Big Sky if she had enough attacks per set to qualify for the league's leader board.
Home vs. Road
Sacramento State is currently 5-4 at home, and 2-5 when playing on an opponent's home court. When looking at the home vs. road splits for the Hornets, it's easy to see why. Plain and simple, Sacramento State is a much better attacking team at home. When playing at Colberg Court, the Hornets are hitting .275 while averaging 12.37 kills per set, and the team has hit better than .300 on five occasions. In seven road matches, team is averaging 10.81 kills per set while hitting .197, and the only plus-.300 hitting percentage came during the opening week of the season at La Salle.
Youth Is Served
Of the team's current starting lineup, outside hitters Sloan Lovett and Morgan Stanley, middle blockers Chelcy Motes and Courtney Dietrich, setter Hannah Hettinga and rightside hitter Kayla Beal, three are underclassmen. That includes two true freshmen in Stanley and Dietrich and a sophomore in Lovett. A total of six underclassmen have started matches this year for Sacramento State, including four freshmen.
Outside Hitters Wracking Up Kills
The trio of outside hitters Sloan Lovett (256) and Morgan Stanley (200), and rightside hitter Kayla Beal (209) have combined for 665 kills, or 70 percent of the team's total tally of 949. All three are averaging better than 2.65 kills per set while no other Hornet receiving regular playing time is averaging better than 1.24. One of the three has led the Hornets in kills in all but one match this season. In fact, Lovett (11), Beal (8) and Stanley (4) have each led or tied for the team lead in kills on at least four occasions. Lovett is currently third in the league with an average of 3.41 kills per set while Beal ranks tied for seventh at 3.07 per set.
Sacramento State is 8-1 when hitting better than .220 in a match, and 2-10 when hitting .220 or below…the Hornets 12.0 team blocks on Saturday vs. Montana State matched a season best…freshman middle blocker Courtney Dietrich has attempted 15 serves (one ace) in the last two matches after not attempting one serve her first 17 matches…freshman middle blocker Kendall LaVine received her most playing time in nearly a month on Saturday vs. Montana State, and responded well with three kills, three aces, a .286 hitting percentage and season-high eight blocks in just three sets.