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Sacramento State Game Notes (8 pages - pdf)

The Week Ahead

• Sacramento State opens the 2016 season this week at the two-day, four-team Maverick Classic hosted by UT Arlington in Arlington, Texas.
• The Hornets begin the tournament on Friday against Arkansas Pine Bluff at 2 p.m. PDT, before playing Saturday vs. Sam Houston State (9 a.m. PDT) and UT Arlington (5 p.m. PDT).
• The tournament features four teams and six matches over two days. All six matchups will take place at the College Park Center on the UT Arlington campus. The arena first opened in 2012.
• Sacramento State is a combined 2-0 all-time against its three opponents this week, and will take on Arkansas Pine Bluff and UT Arlington for the first time in school history.
• The Hornets are 2-0 all-time vs. Sam Houston State, posting three-set sweeps of the Bearkats in 1984 and 2002.
• Sacramento State is 4-4 in season openers during Ruben Volta's tenure as head coach.
• The Hornets will play each of their first 10 matches of the season away from Sacramento before finally playing their home opener on Sept. 13 vs. rival UC Davis.
• Of the team's 14 non-conference matches, 12 will come via tournament play, including stops in Arlington (Aug. 26-27), Las Vegas (Sept. 2-3), Las Cruces, N.M. (Sept. 9), El Paso, Texas (Sept. 10) and the 14th annual Sacramento State Invitational (Sept. 16-17).

This Week's Multimedia Options

• Beginning with this week's matches, live stats will be available for every match this year.
• UT Arlington is providing live video of all three Sacramento State matches for a fee.
• Multimedia options (video, live stats) can be accessed to the right of each match on the volleyball schedule at www.hornetsports.com.
• Free live video in HD will be offered for every home match this season via www.WatchBigSky.com. In addition, free video will be offered for every road match played in a Big Sky Conference venue.

Coming Off A 26-Win Season

• Last year, Sacramento State posted a 26-7 overall record, a 12-4 mark in the Big Sky, an 11-1 record at home, 8-5 on the road and 7-1 on neutral floors.
• 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).
• The Hornets won their Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal match over Northern Colorado (3-1), but fell in the semis to tournament host and eventual champion Northern Arizona (3-0).

A Lot Of Returners, But Two Huge Losses

• The Hornets welcome back 13 players from last year, including four starters and the team's libero.
• Among the returners are starters at middle blocker (seniors Madeline Cannon and Courtney Dietrich), outside hitter (senior Morgan Stanley) and setter (junior Kennedy Kurtz). Cannon will make the switch to rightside/outside hitter this season and sophomore Brie Gathright, who started seven matches at middle last season, will likely assume one of the starting spots at middle blocker.
• 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 last season.
• 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. Kissell was an honorable mention all-Pacific Region and first team all-Big Sky selection a season ago while Lovett, who is now a student assistant coach with the team, was a second team all-league choice.

Returners Back From Injuries

• The Sacramento State outside hitter corps should get a big boost with the return of junior Shannon Boyle, who missed a good chunk of the season in 2015 with a back injury. In 15 matches last year, the hard hitting Boyle averaged 1.98 kills and 2.92 digs per set.
• Middle blocker Courtney Dietrich will return after missing the team's final seven matches of 2015 with a knee injury. At the time of her injury, Dietrich, who will wear a knee brace this season, had gone two-plus matches without an attack error and was hitting .833 (15-0-18) over that span.
• Sophomore middle blocker Lana Brown, who has been impressive in preseason practices thus far, is back after being limited to just six matches in 2015 because of a knee injury.
• Junior Hannah Meadows, who missed a portion of last season with injury, will likely back up Kennedy Kurtz at setter while also receiving time at defensive specialist.    

Hornet Notables

• This year's team captains are senior Courtney Dietrich and junior Kennedy Kurtz.
• 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.
• Since volleyball became a sport at Sacramento State, the program has compiled a 947-427 overall record (.689 winning percentage).
• Senior libero Lexie Skalbeck is just 342 digs shy of becoming the 10th Hornet during the Div. I era (1991-pres.) to record 1,500 career digs.
• Senior Morgan 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.
• Despite playing just two years 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.
• Senior Madeline Cannon, who transferred to Sacramento State prior to her sophomore season, needs just one kill to reach 500 career kills in a Hornet uniform.