SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Northern Arizona's Janae Vander Ploeg had 18 kills and hit .417, and the Lumberjacks limited the Hornets to a .142 hitting percentage on the way to a three-set sweep of Sacramento State in a Big Sky Conference volleyball match Saturday evening at the Rolle Activity Center.
Set scores were 25-21, 25-19, 26-24, and the Hornets' largest lead of the evening came at 7-5 in the third set. After NAU took the first two sets quickly, Sacramento State made things interesting in the third. The Lumberjacks had a 24-19 lead before the Hornets saved five straight match points before tying things at 24-24. The run included back-to-back service aces by Sloan Lovett at 24-21 and 24-22. However, with the scored tied at 24-24, Vander Ploeg recorded kills on consecutive points to put the match away.
With the loss, Sacramento State (13-12, 8-6) had its season-high tying four-match winning streak snapped. Northern Arizona improved to 16-6 overall and 10-3 in the league, and the Lumberjacks avenged a 3-1 loss to the Hornets in Sacramento earlier this year.
The Hornets remain in a tie for fifth place in the league standings as Montana (8-6) lost tonight at home to Portland State. With just six matches remaining in the regular season, the Hornets are three games ahead of seventh-place Northern Colorado (5-9) and Eastern Washington (5-9). That's important because the top six teams in the 11-member league will qualify for the Big Sky Tournament later this month in Portland.
Sacramento State's .142 hitting percentage was its worst mark in over a month, and lowest since 11 matches ago when the team hit .022 at Portland State. Besides setter Hannah Hettinga's two kills and .667 hitting percentage, no other Hornet hit better than .250. The Hornets also had just 5.0 team blocks, tying their lowest mark in the last 14 matches.
Vander Ploeg was the best player on the floor all evening as the outside hitter had match highs in kills (18) and aces (3), and her .417 hitting percentage was better than everyone except Hettinga. NAU finished the match hitting .269, but Vander Ploeg was the only Lumberjack with more than a kill to hit better than .263.
For Sacramento State, rightside hitter Kayla Beal led the way with 10 kills, her fourth straight match leading the Hornets in that category. She also paced the team with eight digs. Beal was the only Hornet with double figures in kills, as Lovett finished with nine kills and two aces, and Morgan Stanley had seven kills, two aces and six digs. Hettinga finished with 30 assists and five digs, and both Beal and Courtney Dietrich had two blocks. Lexie Skalbeck added two aces and Katie Aprile had seven digs.
The Hornets continue their four-match road trip over the next nine days with matchups next Saturday at North Dakota and Monday, Nov. 9, at Northern Colorado.