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The Week Ahead

Winners of three straight, Sacramento State (12-11, 7-5) embarks upon a four-match road trip, beginning with a pair of contests this week at Southern Utah on Thursday and Northern Arizona on Saturday. The Hornets and Thunderbirds will play at 6 p.m. PDT on Halloween Night, and Saturday's match at Northern Arizona is a 7:30 p.m. PDT start time.
With just eight matches remaining in the regular season, the Hornets find themselves tied for fifth place in the league standings with Montana, one game behind fourth-place Idaho State (8-4) and two games back of third-place Portland State (9-3) and Northern Arizona (9-3). More importantly, the Hornets sit two games ahead of seventh-place Northern Colorado (5-7) and three games up on eighth-place Eastern Washington (4-8).
The top six teams in the 11-member Big Sky qualify for the league's postseason event which takes place Nov. 29-30 in Portland. So it is imperative the Hornets remain among the top six teams in the conference standings over the last four weeks of the regular season.
Southern Utah (2-21, 1-10) currently sits in last place in the Big Sky standings after a heartbreaking road loss to Weber State on Saturday in which the team squandered six match points. The Thunderbirds have dropped 13 straight matches with their last win coming on Sept. 19. The Hornets swept SUU earlier this year in Sacramento and are 2-1 all-time against the T-Birds.
Northern Arizona will enter Saturday's match as winners of three straight with a 15-6 overall record and 9-3 conference mark. One of those losses came to the Hornets in Sacramento (3-1) on Sept. 27. The Lumberjacks are 8-2 at home this season, including 6-1 against Big Sky teams. The Hornets are 31-11 all-time against NAU, and 10-9 when playing in Flagstaff. However, the Lumberjacks have won each of the last three meetings between the two teams in Flagstaff.

Multimedia Options
Like every match the remainder of the season, both Thursday 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. Live stats for Thursday's match are available by clicking here, and Saturday's match by clicking here.

Freshman Has Big Week
Middle blocker Courtney Dietrich was named the Big Sky's Player of the Week on Monday, becoming the first freshman to garner league player of the week honors since teammate Kayla Beal accomplished the feat in 2010, and just the second Hornet in the last 13 years. The Chelan, Wash., native helped the Hornets defeat both Portland State and Eastern Washington after averaging 2.25 kills, 1.88 blocks and 3.69 points per set while hitting .382. Dietrich has started 12 straight matches, and has hit better than .300 on seven of those occasions. Her overall hitting percentage of .286 is now the top mark on the squad.

Joining the 1,000 Kill Club
Senior rightside hitter Kayla Beal recently joined the 1,000 kills club, and now has 1,064 during her four-year career. In 109 career matches played, she has 1,064 kills and 381 total blocks, good for averages of 2.56 kills and 0.92 blocks per set. She is 46 blocks shy of cracking into Sacramento State's all-time top 10, and nine blocks assists shy of the top 10 in that category. She currently has 236 kills this season after accumulating 253, 255 and 320, respectively, during her first three years.

Outside Hitters Wracking Up Kills
The trio of outside hitters Sloan Lovett (281) and Morgan Stanley (222), and rightside hitter Kayla Beal (236) have combined for 739 kills, or 69.8 percent of the team's total tally of 1,058. All three are averaging better than 2.65 kills per set while no other Hornet receiving regular playing time is averaging better than 1.36. One of the three has led the Hornets in kills in all but one match this season. In fact, Lovett (12), Beal (10) 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 3.39 kills per set while Beal ranks seventh at 3.11 per set.

Hitting For A High Percentage
Sacramento State's .241 hitting percentage is the second best mark in the Big Sky Conference, and 63rd 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 .210.

The Tight Sets
Sacramento State has already played 17 sets that have resulted in a two-point outcome, and the team has won just six of those nail biters. However, the Hornets have won five of the last eight two-point sets, none bigger than the 15-13 fifth-set win over Northern Colorado on Oct. 3.

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.

Hornet Notables
Sacramento State is 9-1 when hitting better than .220 in a match, and 3-10 when hitting .220 or below…the Hornets have tallied at least 12.0 team blocks each of the last three matches after accomplishing the feat just once during the fist 20 matches of the season…already seventh in school history with 2,442 career assists, setter Hannah Hettinga is currently averaging 10.01 assists per set. The Hornets have not had a setter average at least 10 assists per set since the 2007 season (Rose Burke)…Hettinga is also the only Hornet to start all 23 matches…in her last match against NAU, middle blocker Chelcy Motes had six kills, a .667 hitting percentage and 5 blocks.