LAS VEGAS - Playing without two injured starters, Sacramento State suffered its first loss of the season against tournament host UNLV, 3-1 (22-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-19), in the first round of the Rebel Volleyball Challenge on Friday morning at Cox Pavilion.
The Hornets (3-1) nearly beat an undefeated UNLV program (4-0) on the road without injured starters at rightside hitter (Madeline Cannon) and middle blocker (Brie Gathright). Cannon won't play this weekend and Gathright suffered an ankle injury in pregame warmups. Hornet head coach Ruben Volta had to shuffle his lineup, moving Morgan Stanley from outside to rightside hitter and inserting both Lana Brown (middle) and Mikaela Nocetti (outside) into the starting lineup.
Still, Sacramento State, which won last week's Maverick Classic, had opportunities to beat a UNLV squad that went 3-0 and won a home tournament last weekend. The Hornets will play two more matches as part of the two-day Rebel Challenge, including later today against Cal State Northridge at 5 p.m. and tomorrow vs. Hofstra at 11:30 a.m.
The Hornets nearly overcame large deficits in the second and third sets before dropping both frames by two points. In the second, Sacramento State trailed, 18-12, before tying the score at 24-24. However, the Rebels to got a kill from Caitlin Wernentin and a Hornet attack error to take the set, 26-24. In the third, Sacramento State trailed by an identical 18-12 score before eventually slicing the deficit to one point at 24-23 before Ashley Owens ended the frame with a kill.
In the fourth, the two teams were tied at 19-19 before the Rebels ripped off a 6-0 run to end the set and contest.
For the third consecutive match, Hornet outside hitter Shannon Boyle set her career high in kills, this time finishing with 21 to go along with 16 digs. Boyle originally set her career high with 19 kills vs. Sam Houston State and bettered that mark to 20 kills at UT Arlington. She was joined in double figures by Stanley (16 kills, .273 hit%) and Nocetti (12 kills, 18 digs). Both the kills and digs are career bests for Nocetti in a Hornet uniform. The local product from Carmichael is in her first indoor season with Sacramento State after transferring from the University of Portland.
Hornet libero Lexie Skalbeck had a match-high 20 digs, setter Kennedy Kurtz posted 54 assists and nine digs, and Brown had a career-best seven kills. Middle blocker Courtney Dietrich had six kills, two blocks and a .455 hitting percentage, and has now hit at least .400 in all four matches thus far.
Sacramento State finished with a season-low 4.0 team blocks. Conversely, UNLV had 12.0 team blocks, including three stuffs during the match-ending 6-0 run. The Hornets had more kills (64-58), assists (62-52), aces (5-3) and digs (68-51) than the Rebels. UNLV, however, hit .276, including .349 in the third and .393 in the fourth set. Sacramento State hit .222, and had just one player hit better than .273 (Dietrich).
For UNLV, Bree Hammel (17 kills, .324), Owens (11 kills, .450) and Elsa Descamps (10 kills, nine blocks, .409) all had big kill totals and hit for high percentages.
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