Big Sky Conference standings
OGDEN, Utah — Rightside hitter Madeline Cannon had a career-high 16 kills and libero Lexie Skalbeck added a career-best 32 digs to lead Sacramento State to a 3-1 victory (21-25, 25-14, 25-19, 25-23) over Weber State in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams on Friday night at Swenson Gym.
Not only did the Hornets (7-8, 1-0) win their conference opener, they also dealt a much-improved Weber State team its first loss of the season (9-1, 0-1). The Wildcats, who went 6-22 a year ago and were playing their home opener tonight, won each of their three non-conference tournaments to begin the season.
Sacramento State, which plays seven of its first eight conference matches on the road, won't have much time to celebrate. The Hornets play again in less than 24 hours when they travel to Pocatello, Idaho, to face Idaho State on Saturday at 6 p.m. PDT.
The Hornets limited Weber State to a .135 hitting percentage, had 18 more kills than the Wildcats (59-41), and were able to pull out the victory despite Weber State putting up 15.0 team blocks, easily the most by an opponent this season. The Wildcats failed to hit anything better than .146 in each of the first three sets, and had nearly half the amount of attack errors (20) as kills (41).
Sacramento State finished with 78 digs (19.5 per set), and had the edge over Weber State in many of the match's long rallies. Skalbeck accounted for over 40 percent of the team's digs as her 32 digs eclipsed her previous career high of 31, set on two occasions. Cannon's 16 kills surpassed her previous career high of 15, and four of those kills came during a grinder of a fourth set. Setter Kennedy Kurtz stuffed the stat sheet with a well balanced line of four kills, a .667 hitting percentage (4-0-6), 49 assists, three aces, 14 digs and three blocks.
"I was so happy with our intensity and overall defensive play," Sacramento State head coach Ruben Volta said. "It seemed like we won every long rally and this was a great team effort in so many ways. The way we defended and transitioned into our attack was very good. Kennedy (Kurtz) set a very nice match, Lexie (Skalbeck) dug everything and Maddie (Cannon) played really well."
Leading the match, 2-1, the Hornets found themselves down, 19-15, in the fourth set but ripped off a spirited 10-4 run to close the frame and match. That included the Hornets running off the final three points of the contest. At 24-23, Cannon ripped a serve that Weber State passed poorly over the net to an awaiting Kurtz who niftily put the ball down for a kill and Sacramento State victory.
The Hornets hit just .170, but received good production from a number of players. That included Cannon (16 kills, .343 hitting percentage), as well as outside hitters Shannon Boyle (15 kills, 12 digs) and Mikaela Nocetti (13 kills, nine digs) to round out the three Sacramento State players with double figures in kills. For Boyle, it marked her team-high eighth double-double of the season.
Sophomore Brie Gathright had eight kills and four blocks, and fellow middle blocker Courtney Dietrich also had four blocks, including three solo stuffs. The quartet of Cannon, Boyle, Nocetti and Gathright accounted for 52 of Sacramento State's 59 kills. Five of Boyle's 15 kills came in the fourth set, and Skalbeck had a massive 10 digs during that decisive fourth frame.
For Weber State, Andrea Hale (10) was the only player with double-figure kills. The Wildcats' 15.0 team blocks included seven from Megan Thompson and five from Aubrey Saunders. However, Saunders also had three block errors.