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VOLLEYBALL JUST 3 WEEKS AWAY FROM 1ST MATCH; PRACTICES BEGIN AUG. 9

VOLLEYBALL JUST 3 WEEKS AWAY FROM 1ST MATCH; PRACTICES BEGIN AUG. 9

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Fresh off a 26-win season, the Sacramento State volleyball squad, equipped with 13 returners, four starters and the libero, will be back on the court for its first official practice on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

Ninth-year head coach and reigning Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year Ruben Volta will hold practices twice a day on most days beginning on Tuesday, and running through Aug. 24. The team will host its annual Alumni Game on Saturday, Aug. 20, and depart for Texas on Aug. 25 in preparation for its season-opening tournament in Arlington Aug. 26-27.

Last year, Sacramento State posted a 26-7 overall record, a 12-4 mark in the Big Sky, and an 11-1 record at home. In fact, the Hornets were taken to five sets just twice all year, had an 18-win improvement from the previous season, recorded a 12-match winning streak, never lost more than two matches in a row, and finished 78th out of 334 Div. I teams in the NCAA's final RPI report.

The Hornets' .256 hitting percentage was the best single-season mark since 1995 and second best in the Div. I era (1991-pres.). Among the Big Sky's 12 teams, Sacramento State finished first in kills per set (14.08) and assists per set (12.95), second in hitting percentage (.256) and aces per set (1.66), and third in digs per set (15.66).

Among the returners are starters at middle blocker (seniors Madeline Cannon and Courtney Dietrich), outside hitter (senior Morgan Stanley) and setter (junior Kennedy Kurtz). In addition, senior Lexie Skalbeck is back for her third straight year as the team's starting libero. Both Cannon and Kurtz were second team all-conference selections. The Hornets, however, will have to compensate for the losses of outside hitters Lauren Kissell and Sloan Lovett, who ranked fourth and sixth, respectively, in the Big Sky in kills per set.

Also returning are juniors Shannon Boyle, Hannah Meadows, Brigitte Murdock, Julia Wright and Erin Cochran, as well as sophomores Lana Brown, Brie Gathright and Skyler Takeda. The three newcomers are comprised of sophomore Mikaela Nocetti, and freshmen Paige Swinney and Sarah Davis. Nocetti, who transferred from the University of Portland prior to the spring semester, played with the Hornet beach volleyball team in 2016. This will be her first season of indoor volleyball at Sacramento State.

The Hornets' roster currently features 16 players, made up of four seniors, six juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen. The roster also breaks down to five outside hitters, five middle blockers, two setters and four defensive specialists.

During the Hornets' season-opening tournament in Arlington on Aug. 26-27, Sacramento State will play Arkansas Pine Bluff on Friday, followed by Sam Houston and host UT Arlington on Saturday. The Hornets will play each of their first 12 matches away from Colberg Court until the home opener against UC Davis on Tuesday, Sept. 13. That week, the Hornets will play four home matches, which includes hosting the Sacramento State Invitational on Sept. 16-17.

NOTABLES

• Sacramento State assistant coaches Aven Lee and Ed Jackson are back for their second straight year on the sidelines with Volta.

• The Hornets will be traveling to China at the end of May/early June to play five matches over 10 days. Former longtime Hornet assistant coach Weidi Zhang will be with the team on the trip.

• Of the 25 opponents on Sacramento State's schedule, the Hornets will be playing three (Arkansas Pine Bluff, UT Arlington, Grand Canyon) for the first time in school history.

• For the third straight year, the Big Sky will spit its 12 member schools into two divisions. In the South Division, Sacramento State is with Idaho State, Northern Arizona, Portland State, Southern Utah and Weber State. The North Division is comprised of Eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana, Montana State, North Dakota and Northern Colorado. The Hornets will play each team in the South on two occasions, and will play once against each team in the North. The Big Sky Tournament will be played Nov. 17-19 at the site of the regular season champion.

• Since volleyball became a sport at Sacramento State, the program has compiled a 947-427 overall record (.689 winning percentage).

• Skalbeck is just 342 digs shy of becoming the 10th Hornet during the Div. I era (1990-pres.) to record 1,500 career digs.

• Stanley currently has 799 career kills and 738 digs, and could become just the 12th Hornet since 1985 to record 1,000 career kills and 1,000 digs by the end of the season. Stanley has posted better than 200 kills all three seasons thus far, and had 279 digs last year. She also has 92 career aces, and needs 35 to crack into the Sacramento State Div. I era top 10 for career aces.

• Despite playing just two seasons thus far, Kurtz is eighth on Sacramento State's Div. I career list with 2,543 assists. At her current pace, she could easily move into sixth by the end of the year.

• Cannon, who transferred to Sacramento State prior to her sophomore season, needs just one kill to reach 500 career kills in a Hornet uniform.

• Prior to suffering a knee injury on Oct. 29 and missing the final seven matches of last season, Dietrich had gone two-plus matches without an attack error and was hitting .833 (15-0-18) over that span.