GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Sacramento State and North Dakota were deadlocked at 13-13 in the fifth and final set, but the Fighting Hawks got kills from Faith Dooley and Tamara Merseli on the way to a 3-2 win (22-25, 25-21, 25-15, 20-25, 15-13) over the Hornets on Thursday evening at the Sioux Center.
The loss was the first in league play for the Hornets (10-9, 4-1) as Sacramento State was playing the second leg of a five-match road trip. North Dakota, meanwhile, improved to 12-8 overall, 4-1 in the conference, and won for the fifth time in its last six matches. Sacramento State is just 2-6 all-time against North Dakota, including a 1-3 mark when playing in Grand Forks.
The Hornets also had their four-match road winning streak snapped as the team is now 6-3 when playing on an opponent's home floor.
Northern Arizona (4-1 in league) also lost tonight, meaning there are now zero undefeated teams remaining in the Big Sky, and four teams at 4-1, including Northern Colorado who the Hornets play on Saturday night at 6 p.m. PDT. Atop the South Division are Sacramento State and Northern Arizona while North Dakota and Northern Colorado are tied for first in the North.
In the fifth set, Sacramento State never held a lead, but tied the match on three occasions at 1-1, 2-2, and 13-13. In fact, it was a 3-0 Sacramento State run that tied things at 13-13. However, the Dooley and Merseli kills ended the contest. The Hornets hit .280 in the fifth set with eight kills and just one error in 25 swings, but also had three costly service errors. Hornet service errors were a common theme throughout the evening as Sacramento State had a season-high tying 11 service miscues.
Statistically, the match was nearly identical as both teams had 66 kills and two aces, and North Dakota had just one more dig than Sacramento State (105-104). The Fighting Hawks had 12.0 team blocks compared to just 7.0 for the Hornets. Sacramento State hit .185 and North Dakota .226.
The 104 digs for the Hornets were easily a season high, and libero Lexie Skalbeck led the defensive effort with a career-best 34 digs. That surpassed her previous career best of 32, set two weeks ago at Idaho State. Five Hornets posted double figures in digs, including setter Kennedy Kurtz (17, two shy of her career high), Mikaela Nocetti (14), Brigitte Murdock (season-high tying 13) and Shannon Boyle (11). Sacramento State averaged a massive 20.8 digs per set in the match, upping their already impressive season total to 16.75 digs per set.
Nocetti led the Hornets with a career-high 17 kills, and posted her second double-double of the season with the 14 digs. Nocetti was making her fourth straight start at outside hitter. Rightside hitter Madeline Cannon had 16 kills, six digs and two blocks, and has now posted at least 14 kills in four of the Hornets' five conference matches.
Middle blocker Courtney Dietrich improved her season hitting percentage to .385 after finishing with eight kills, three blocks, zero attack errors and a match-best .444 hitting percentage. Kurtz had four kills and 54 assists to go along with her 17 digs, and Morgan Stanley finished with nine kills and a .280 hitting percentage. Eight of Stanley's kills came during the final two sets, including six and a .462 hitting percentage in the fourth set alone. Middle blocker Brie Gathright led the Hornets with four blocks, and Boyle had eight kills to go with her 11 digs.
North Dakota had five players with double figures in kills, including Chelsea Moser who had 18 with a .417 hitting percentage. Merseli had 10 kills and 28 digs, and Dooley had 11 kills and a match-best nine blocks. Setter Sydney Griffin had 54 assists, 17 digs and seven blocks.
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