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VOLLEYBALL WINS, EXTENDS HOMECOURT DOMINANCE OF NORTHERN ARIZONA

VOLLEYBALL WINS, EXTENDS HOMECOURT DOMINANCE OF NORTHERN ARIZONA

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Four Hornets tallied double figures in kills and libero Lexie Skalbeck had a match-best 30 digs to lead Sacramento State to a 3-1 victory over Northern Arizona (28-26, 19-25, 26-24, 25-23) in a Big Sky Conference volleyball match Thursday evening at Colberg Court.

The win for the Hornets (8-22, 3-12) was their first of the season at home and came against a Northern Arizona squad that entered the match with a 19-6 overall record and 10-4 conference mark. In addition, the Hornets improved to 20-1 all-time when playing the Lumberjacks in Sacramento, a homecourt dominance that stretches back to 1996.

Sacramento State, which has been eliminated from Big Sky Tournament contention, wraps up its season at home on Saturday vs. Southern Utah at 7 p.m. Over the last seven matches, the Hornets are 3-4, and three of the losses during that span were extremely close and could have just as easily been Sacramento State wins.

Tonight, the Hornets got offensive production from multiple players as Morgan Stanley (16 kills, 16 digs), Madeline Cannon (15 kills, four blocks, .333 hitting percentage), Sloan Lovett (14 kills) and Lauren Kissell (12 kills) all finished with better than 10 kills. In addition, Sacramento State played sound defense all evening, finishing with 89 digs and 10.0 team blocks. The 89 digs were not only the third best mark of the season, but the team's top mark in a four-set match.

Leading the defense was Skalbeck, who seemed to dig everything in sight as she averaged a robust 7.50 digs per set in tonight's match. Setter Kennedy Kurtz chipped in 17 digs, Hannah Meadows had a season-high 10 digs, and five different Hornets had at least two blocks. Brigitte Murdock added nine digs, and Kurtz finished with 54 assists.

"At the beginning of the match, we played very well defensively and I felt that set the tone for the rest of the match," Sacramento State head coach Ruben Volta said. "Having all those digs and winning some long rallies towards the beginning really helped us confidence-wise and allowed us to settle in.

"NAU is a very good team who is steady and attacks well, and that's another reason I was happy with our defense. We did everything well at very important times. Not just blocking well, but getting touches on balls that made it easier to play defense. We passed well, we ran our offense, and I felt like Kennedy (Kurtz) did a very nice job of spreading the offense around. We just played well in so many areas, and we needed to do that tonight to beat a team of NAU's caliber."

The Hornets and Lumberjacks were locked in three sets that came down to the wire, and Sacramento State was victorious in all three of those frames. That included a third set in which the Hornets saved a set point at 23-24 before running off three straight points, capped by a Lovett kill that she placed perfectly in the corner above the outstretched arms of NAU defenders. In the fourth set, it was a Cannon kill at 24-23 that not only ended the set, but put the Hornets in the win column.

Northern Arizona entered the match with a season hitting percentage of .259, easily the top mark in the conference. The Hornets were able to limit that NAU offensive attack to just a .171 percentage tonight. In fact, only one NAU player hit above the .300 mark. Sacramento State easily had more kills (65-52) and held NAU to hitting percentage below .145 in three different sets.

For NAU, Sydney Kemper led the way with 15 kills and 12 digs, Janae Vander Ploeg had 12 kills and 17 digs, and Stacia Williams had a team-best 26 digs. The Lumberjacks finished with 90 digs as five different players finished with double figures in digs.

Sacramento State's match against Southern Utah on Saturday will begin at 7 p.m. The youngest team in the Big Sky, there will be no Senior Day as the Hornets have three juniors, five sophomores and a school-record eight freshmen on the roster.