Big Sky Conference standings
BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Sacramento State notched its fifth consecutive victory after winning its final road match of the regular season over Montana State, 3-1 (23-25, 25-11, 25-21, 25-17), on Thursday night at Shroyer Gym.
Not only have the Hornets (16-11, 10-3) won five straight matches, the team has outscored the opposition in sets, 15-1, during that stretch. In fact, when Montana State closed on an 8-1 run to win the first set, 25-23, it snapped a streak of 12 consecutive winning sets for Sacramento State. The winning streak is the longest of the season for the Hornets, and the fourth longest in the last eight years.
With just three matches remaining in the regular season - all coming at home - Sacramento State remains just one game behind Northern Arizona (11-2) in the Big Sky's South Division. The Lumberjacks won at Weber State tonight by a 3-0 score. The Hornets and NAU split two meetings this season, but Sacramento State owns the tiebreaker should the two teams finish tied atop standings at the end of the regular season. North Dakota also won tonight, and they now own an 11-2 record in the North Division. The winner of the Big Sky's regular season championship hosts the conference tournament on Nov. 17-19.
Sacramento State went 5-3 on the road against Big Sky foes, and will bring a perfect 5-0 home record against conference competition into its final three regular season matches. Each of those contests will come inside the Nest, beginning on Saturday night vs. Portland State at 7 p.m., followed by Idaho State and Weber State next week. The Hornets defeated each of those three teams on the road earlier this season.
With the loss, Montana State dropped to 5-17 overall and 3-10 in the Big Sky. This marks the only time the Hornets and Bobcats will meet this year, and Sacramento State now owns a 43-6 all-time record against Montana State, including a 16-5 mark when the two teams meet in Bozeman.
Once again, the Hornets turned in a solid defensive effort, limiting its opponent to a sub .200 hitting percentage for the fifth straight match. Sacramento State had 71 digs and 7.0 team blocks while holding Montana State to just a .135 hitting percentage. The Bobcats had 50 kills, but committed 29 errors in 156 attacks. Libero Lexie Skalbeck continued her torrid pace, posting 26 digs, six more than any other player on the floor. She continues to lead the Big Sky in both overall digs per set (5.10) and digs against conference opposition (5.90).
Sacramento State, which hit .236, also had five aces compared to just two service errors. Montana State, meanwhile, had two aces and seven errors.
Hornet middle blocker Brie Gathright had a huge night, finishing with nine kills, five blocks and a career-best .643 hitting percentage. The sophomore had nine kills without an error in 14 swings. Outside hitter Shannon Boyle posted her fourth consecutive double-double with 14 kills and 14 digs, and fellow outside hitter Mikaela Nocetti had 12 kills, eight digs and three blocks. The Hornets are now 8-1 against Big Sky opposition when Nocetti registers double figures in kills.
Setter Kennedy Kurtz had a pair of kills, 45 assists and 10 digs, middle blocker Courtney Dietrich had five kills, two blocks and a .375 hitting percentage, and rightside hitter Madeline Cannon added eight kills. Defensive specialist Brigitte Murdock had seven digs and Skyler Takeda had a pair of aces. Takeda has now posted at least two aces in three straight matches.
Sacramento State will attempt to win its sixth consecutive match on Saturday night when the team welcomes Portland State to the Nest for a 7 p.m. matchup. The Hornets won at Portland State earlier this year by a 3-1 score (15-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-23).
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