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VOLLEYBALL SELECTED FIFTH OUT OF 12 TEAMS IN BIG SKY PRESEASON POLL

VOLLEYBALL SELECTED FIFTH OUT OF 12 TEAMS IN BIG SKY PRESEASON POLL

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — One year removed from a 26-7 overall record and a 12-4 league mark, the Sacramento State volleyball team was selected to finish fifth out of 12 teams in the Big Sky Conference's preseason coaches poll.

Ninth-year head coach Ruben Volta will oversee a roster that includes 13 returners from a season ago, including four starters and the libero. Last year, the Hornets also went 11-1 at home, were taken to five sets just twice all 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.

For volleyball, the Big Sky is split up into two six-team divisions, and although the Hornets finished third in the South Division last season, they had the third best conference record in the entire league. Sacramento State won its Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal match over Northern Colorado before falling to eventual tournament champion Northern Arizona in the semifinals.

Northern Arizona received nine first-place votes and 119 overall points in the poll, and was selected by the coaches to repeat as conference champions. Trailing NAU in the poll were Northern Colorado (104 points, one first-place vote), North Dakota (99 points, two first-place votes), Idaho State (86), Sacramento State (79), Idaho (68), Portland State (60), Eastern Washington (51), Weber State (44), Southern Utah (40), Montana State (23) and Montana (19).

The winner of the regular season championship will host the Big Sky Tournament on Nov. 17-19. The winner of the conference tournament receives an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

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.

Sacramento State opens the season on Friday-Saturday, Aug. 26-27 for a three-match, four-team tournament in Arlington, Texas. The Hornets will play Arkansas Pine Bluff on Aug. 26 at 2 p.m. PDT prior to taking on both Sam Houston and host UT Arlington on Aug. 27.

2016 BIG SKY PRESEASON COACHES POLL

Team - Points (First Place Votes)
1. Northern Arizona - 119 (9)
2. Northern Colorado - 104 (1)
3. North Dakota - 99 (2)
4. Idaho State - 86
5. Sacramento State - 79
6. Idaho - 68
7. Portland State - 60
8. Eastern Washington - 51
9. Weber State - 44
10. Southern Utah - 40
11. Montana State - 23
12. Montana - 19