Big Sky Tournament Central
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Sacramento State's impressive season came to an end on Friday after the Hornets suffered a 3-1 loss (20-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-23) to Northern Arizona in the Big Sky Conference Volleyball Tournament semifinals at the Sioux Center.
The Hornets were the No. 2 seed at the eight-team tournament after finishing the season with a 13-3 conference record. In fact, Sacramento State wasn't far off from hosting the tournament but North Dakota narrowly edged the Hornets for the right to host the postseason event. In addition, the Hornets finished the season with a 20-12 record, marking the program's second consecutive 20-win season.
Tonight was a familiar fate as the Hornets fell to the Lumberjacks in the tournament semifinals last season in Flagstaff. Northern Arizona (24-7), which is the No. 3 seed, will advances to tomorrow's championship match where it will play tournament host North Dakota at 5 p.m. PST. The winner of that match receives an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
The Hornets also had their nine-match winning streak snapped, losing for the first time since they fell to NAU in Flagstaff on Oct. 15. Sacramento State and Northern Arizona split their season series with each team winning on the home floor prior to today's neutral court battle.
Sacramento State had its chances to win today's match, but had trouble closing out the third and fourth sets. In fact, the Hornets had what appeared to be a comfortable 19-16 lead in the third, but NAU closed on a 9-3 run. In the fourth set, Sacramento State took a 23-22 lead, but the Lumberjacks got kills from Lauren Jacobsen on three straight points to end the match and the Hornets' season.
Sacramento State also hit just .162 with 50 kills and 23 errors in 167 swings. Northern Arizona had 14 team blocks, the third most by a Hornet opponent this season. Five of those blocks came in the fourth set, including some momentum swinging blocks late in the frame. The Lumberjacks hit .260 as the Hornets could muster just three team blocks. In fact, Sacramento State didn't register a block until the third set.
The Hornets did have 89 digs, including a career-best 36 from libero Lexie Skalbeck. The fourth-year senior's 36 digs also tied for the sixth best single-match mark in program history. For her efforts, Skalbeck was named to the all-tournament team after totalling 54 digs in two matches, and an average of 6.0 digs per set.
Also setting a career best for digs was outside hitter Shannon Boyle who finished with 22 digs to go along with a team-high 15 kills. Those two players combined for 58 of the Hornets' 89 digs. Setter Kennedy Kurtz and outside hitter Mikaela Nocetti both posted seven digs.
Rightside hitter Madeline Cannon had 11 kills and a match-high tying .500 hitting percentage. Middle blocker Courtney Dietrich had nine kills and a .444 hitting percentage and fellow middle blocker Brie Gathright had eight kills, two blocks and a .353 hitting percentage. Kurtz finished with 44 assists and three blocks to go along with her seven digs. Nocetti had four kills and seven digs, Brigitte Murdock five digs and Skyler Takeda two aces.
For NAU, Jacobsen finished with 18 kills (six in the fourth set) and 21 digs, Addy Lofstedt had 11 kills and a .500 hitting percentage and Brittni Dorsey had seven kills, a .417 hitting percentage, two aces and 10 blocks.
NOTABLES - Senior Morgan Stanley had a pair of kills and finishes her four-year career with 1,007 kills…Skalbeck, a fourth-year senior, finishes her career with 1,767 career digs, the fourth best mark in program history. Skalbeck's season average of 5.21 digs per set this year is also the fourth best mark in program history…Dietrich's .369 hitting percentage is not only the best mark in the Big Sky, but also tied for the third best single-season mark in program history for the fourth-year senior…Cannon, a third-year senior, made the switch from middle blocker to rightside hitter this year and proceeded to average 3.06 kills per set to go along with a .261 hitting percentage. She also hit .310 in league play…Kurtz's 3,886 career assists are already the sixth best mark in program history. The junior's average of 10.76 assists per set during her career is the fourth best mark.