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Big Sky Conference standings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Madeline Cannon had a career-high 20 kills and Mikaela Nocetti added 17 kills and 14 digs to lead Sacramento State to a 3-1 victory (25-15, 16-25, 25-21, 25-14) over Portland State on Saturday evening at the Nest.

With the victory, not only did the Hornets (17-11, 11-3) win their sixth straight match, they also moved into a tie for first place with Northern Arizona (11-3) in the Big Sky Conference's South Division. NAU squandered three match points in a five-set loss at Idaho State (18-16 in the 5th) earlier this evening. Should the Hornets and Northern Arizona finish the regular season tied, Sacramento State would get the tiebreaker.

With just two matches remaining in the regular season, the Hornets still have a shot at hosting the Big Sky Tournament on Nov. 17-19. However, Sacramento State would need to win both its home matches next week, and the North Division leader North Dakota (12-2) would have to lose both its matches. North Dakota owns the tiebreaker over Sacramento State. The top team in the Big Sky gains the right to host the Big Sky Tournament.

The Hornets, who are now 6-0 at home against Big Sky opposition, will host Idaho State on Thursday and Weber State on Saturday. Meanwhile, North Dakota has to face two of the toughest teams in the Big Sky, including Thursday on the road at Northern Arizona, and back at home Saturday vs. Northern Colorado (11-3).

The six match winning streak ties for the third longest for the Hornets in the last eight years. In addition, Sacramento State has outscored its six Big Sky opponents at home by an 18-1 margin in sets. In fact, when the Hornets dropped the second set tonight, it snapped a string of 16 consecutive victorious sets for the Hornets over Big Sky opposition inside the Nest.

Portland State, which had won five of its last six matches and was one of the Big Sky's hottest teams, dropped to 15-11 and 7-7 in the conference. Including a 3-1 win earlier this season in Portland, Sacramento State swept the season series over the Vikings and now own a 42-22 all-time record against Portland State.

The Hornets passed well, served well (eight aces), played their usual strong defense (82 digs, 9.0 team blocks) and setter Kennedy Kurtz did a nice job of running the offense (55 kills as a team, .252 hitting percentage). Sacramento State had four players with double digits in digs, comprised of libero Lexie Skalbeck (19), Shannon Boyle (19), Kurtz (15) and Nocetti (14). In addition, the Hornets are now averaging a massive 18.57 digs per set against Big Sky opposition this season.

No one was better than Cannon tonight as the rightside hitter did everything well, finishing with a career-high 20 kills to go along with .459 hitting percentage, three aces, four digs and three blocks. The 20 kills surpassed her previous best of 17 kills, set earlier this season at Idaho State. Not only were the 20 kills the most by any player on the floor, she also had match highs in hitting percentage and aces.

Nocetti, meanwhile, posted her sixth double-double of the season as the sophomore outside hitter had a career-high tying 17 kills and 14 digs, not to mention a .356 hitting percentage. She had just one error in 45 swings. In addition, the Hornets are now 9-1 against Big Sky opposition when Nocetti connects for double digits in kills.

"I'm really proud of how we fought tonight, especially after Portland State really gave us a tough time in the second set," Sacramento State head coach Ruben Volta said. "We passed well and that led to a good offensive attack, especially Maddie (Cannon) and Mikaela who managed to come up with big kills throughout the match. And, again, we were very good defensively and that has been a common theme throughout the conference season."

Boyle posted her fifth consecutive double-double with 12 kills, 19 digs and an ace. Boyle, Cannon and Nocetti combined for 49 of the Hornets' 56 kills. Skalbeck has now recorded 15+ digs in 11 straight matches, and Kurtz had 45 assists and four blocks to go along with her 15 digs. Brie Gathright had four blocks, Brigitte Murdock had eight digs and Skyler Takeda had multiple aces (2) for the fourth straight match.

For Portland State, Pati Anae (14 kills, .119) and Caitlin Bettenay (10 kills, .098) combined for 24 of the team's 45 kills, but both hit below .120.

Sacramento State will play its final two regular season home matches next week, including Thursday vs. Idaho State at 7 p.m., followed by Saturday at 1 p.m. against Weber State. Prior to the Weber State match, Hornet seniors Cannon, Skalbeck, Courtney Dietrich and Morgan Stanley will be honored for their contributions to the program.