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VOLLEYBALL DROPS TO 5-2 IN THE BIG SKY AFTER 5-SET LOSS AT SOUTHERN UTAH

VOLLEYBALL DROPS TO 5-2 IN THE BIG SKY AFTER 5-SET LOSS AT SOUTHERN UTAH

Big Sky Conference standings

CEDAR CITY, Utah — Southern Utah overcame a 2-1 deficit and won the final two sets in a 3-2 victory (25-22, 22-25, 14-25, 25-22, 15-10) over Sacramento State in a Big Sky Conference volleyball matchup Thursday evening at Centrum Arena.

Sacramento State, which had won five of its last six matches, dropped to 11-10 overall and 5-2 in the Big Sky. In the process, the Hornets fell out of a tie for first place in the Big Sky's South Division and now trail Northern Arizona (6-1) by a game. The Hornets and Northern Arizona will play each other on Saturday afternoon at 12 p.m. PDT.

Tonight marked the fourth leg of a five-match road trip for the Hornets, and by the time the Northern Arizona match concludes on Saturday, Sacramento State will have played seven of its first eight league matches of the season on the road. Of the Hornets' two losses in league play, both have now come in five sets, including a 15-13 fifth-set loss at North Dakota a week ago. Sacramento State is 7-4 on the road this year and 4-2 on the road in Big Sky play.

Southern Utah (3-16, 1-6) snapped a nine-match losing streak and won its first Big Sky contest of the season. The Thunderbirds, who have played a number of opponents close this season, had been 1-5 in five-set matches prior to tonight. Three of Southern Utah's seven conference matches have now gone to five sets.

The Hornets had 13 more kills than Southern Utah (67-54), but Sacramento State hit just .170 overall, including sub-.175 percentages in each of the sets it lost. In addition, Southern Utah had 19.0 team blocks, easily the most by a Sacramento State opponent this season. The Hornets also had more assists (58-51), aces (6-5) and digs (93-88) than Southern Utah.

In the fifth set, Sacramento State's only lead of the frame was 3-2. After the Hornets' Morgan Stanley connected on a kill to get the Hornets within 9-8 of the Southern Utah lead, the Thunderbirds closed on a 6-2 run to take the match. The Hornets hit just .160 during the set while Southern Utah had eight kills, a .350 hitting percentage and 3.0 team blocks. That included four kills and a .571 hitting percentage from Chennin Benson.

The Hornets were led by setter Kennedy Kurtz who had a season-high tying six kills to go along with a .545 hitting percentage, 55 assists, 13 digs and two blocks. Middle blocker Brie Gathright had a career-best 10 kills as well as six blocks and a .333 hitting percentage. Joining Gathright with double figures in kills for the Hornets were Stanley (12 kills, .267 hitting percentage), Madeline Cannon (16 kills, three aces, six digs, two blocks) and Shannon Boyle (10 kills, 18 digs, season-high four blocks). Stanley, a fourth-year senior, is now just 16 kills shy of reaching 1,000 career kills. Cannon has posted exactly 16 kills in three straight matches, and has at least 14 kills in all but one conference match.

For the third time in her last seven matches, libero Lexie Skalbeck had better than 30 digs. Tonight, she had a match-best 32 digs, which were 10 better than any other player on the floor. Skalbeck is now averaging an impressive 5.60 digs per set in league play. Middle blocker Courtney Dietrich had seven blocks (one shy of her season high) and Mikaela Nocetti had nine kills, six digs and a pair of blocks. Brigitte Murdock added eight digs and Skyler Takeda had an ace.

For Southern Utah, Benson finished with a match-best 18 kills, and Ann Clappier had nine kills to go along with a massive 14 blocks. MaCail Evans had 12 kills, five blocks and a .400 hitting percentage.

After the Hornets play at Northern Arizona on Saturday, Sacramento State will have reached the midway point of the conference season, and play seven of its final eight Big Sky contests at home.