SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento State volleyball squad, which enters the season with just two upperclassmen, will hit the court for its first official practice on Saturday, Aug. 9.
Seventh-year head coach Ruben Volta will hold practices twice a day on most days beginning on Saturday, Aug. 9, and running through Aug. 27. The team will host its annual Alumni Game on Aug. 23, and depart for Charlotte, N.C., on Aug. 28 in preparation for the season-opening 49er Invitational.
Sacramento State returns six players, including three starters, from last season's team which posted a 15-16 overall record and a 10-10 mark in the Big Sky Conference. Among those returners are the potent outside hitter combination of junior Sloan Lovett and sophomore Morgan Stanley. Lovett led the Hornets in kills (361), kills per set (3.25), attempts (936), points (407.5), and points per set (3.67) last season while Stanley was tied for second on the squad in kills (313), and third in digs (227), aces (27) and total points (362.0).
Sophomore middle blocker Courtney Dietrich returns after a freshman season in which she started 25 matches and finished with averages of 1.40 kills and 0.80 blocks per set. Also returning are junior outside hitter Lauren Aikels (1.58 kps), sophomore middle blocker Kendall LaVine (0.62 bps) and sophomore defensive specialist Lexie Skalbeck (1.52 dps).
Lovett and Aikels, who are both juniors, are the only upperclassmen on the squad as Sacramento State enters the season for the first time in recent memory with zero seniors on the roster. The remainder of the roster is comprised of five sophomores and seven freshmen. Lovett will serve as the team captain.
Eight of the roster's 14 student-athletes will be playing their first matches in a Sacramento State uniform. Sophomore Madeline Cannon, who is a transfer from Santa Clara and played for Sacramento State during the spring sand season, will make her Hornet indoor debut.
The season-opening tournament in Charlotte will see the Hornets play both UNC Greensboro and ETSU on Friday, Aug. 29, and Morgan State and host Charlotte on Saturday, Aug. 30.
The following week, the Hornets return home to host the 12th annual Sacramento State Invitational on Sept. 5-6. The Hornets will face Fresno State, Loyola Marymount and UC Santa Barbara at the tournament.
• Despite returning just six student-athletes, those six players combined for 64 percent of the team's kills from a year ago (922 kills). However, those players combine for just 40 percent (608) of the team's total of 1,512 digs from last season.
• The seven freshmen on the roster are comprised of setters Kennedy Kurtz (Ironwood Ridge HS) and Hannah Meadows (Spanish Springs HS), outside hitter Shannon Boyle (Ridgefield HS), middle blockers Lana Brown (Shasta HS) and Erin Cochran (Mission San Jose HS), and defensive specialists Brigitte Murdock (Reno HS) and Julia Wright (Bellarmine Prep HS). The seven freshmen represent the most on a Hornet roster since the 2000 squad also had seven freshmen. Meadows and Murdock were teammates on the Northern Nevada Juniors team.
• The Hornets will have new starters in 2014 at one of the middle blocker spots, setter, rightside hitter and libero. Perhaps the most intriguing position battle in preseason practice will be between setters Kurtz and Meadows. The Hornets could potentially employ a 6-2 offense and use both setters. Either way, Sacramento State will have a freshman starting setter for the first time since Katie Aprile in 2010.
• With the addition of the University of Idaho to the Big Sky, this year's volleyball standings will have a new look as the conference is splitting its 12 teams into two divisions. In one division, Sacramento State will join Idaho State, Northern Arizona, Portland State, Southern Utah and Weber State. The other division will be comprised of Eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana, Montana State, North Dakota and Northern Colorado.
• Since volleyball became a sport at Sacramento State, the program has compiled a 913-397 record (.697 winning percentage).
• Head coach Ruben Volta (1991-93, 1995) and assistant coaches Sarah Chlebana (1997-00) and Jason Borchin (2006-07) each played volleyball at Sacramento State.
• On the 2014 schedule are three opponents the Hornets will play for the first time in school history - UNC Greensboro, ETSU and Valparaiso.