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The Week Ahead

• Sacramento State begins the 2017 season this week at the two-day, four-team Jack Kaiser Volleyball Classic, hosted by St. John's in Queens, N.Y.
• The Hornets open the tournament on Friday against both UConn (9 a.m. PDT) and St. John's (4 p.m. PDT), before playing twice more on Saturday vs. Holy Cross (9 a.m. PDT) and New Hampshire (2 p.m. PDT).
• The tournament features five teams and eight matches over two days. Two facilities are being used for the event and Sacramento State's matches against UConn, Holy Cross and New Hampshire will take place at the Taffner Field House while the St. John's matchup will be played at Carnesecca Arena.
• Sacramento State is a combined 2-0 all-time against its four opponents this week, and will take on both Holy Cross and St. John's for the first time in school history.
• Sacramento State is 5-4 in season openers during Ruben Volta's tenure as head coach.
• The Hornets will play their first four, and 11 of their first 12 matches, away from home. The only home match during that span will come on Aug. 30 vs. Pacific at 7 p.m.
• Of the team's 16 non-conference matches, 13 will come via tournament play, including stops in Queens, and Boise, Idaho (Sept. 1-2), Highland, Ky. (Sept. 8-9) and Reno, Nev. (Sept. 14-16).

This Week's Multimedia Options

• Beginning with this week's matches, live stats will be available for every match this year.
• Free live video will be provided for Sacramento State's match against St. John's. Each of the Hornets' other three matches during the tournament will not have a video stream.
• Multimedia options (video, live stats) can be accessed to the right of each match on the volleyball schedule at www.hornetsports.com.
• Free live video will be offered for every home match this season via www.WatchBigSky.com. In addition, free video will be offered for every road match played in a Big Sky Conference venue.

vs. This Week's Opponents

• Sacramento State has played a combined two matches in program history against this week's opponents. The Hornets have never faced Holy Cross or tournament host St. John's.
• The Hornets are 1-0 against both UConn and New Hampshire. In the only meeting against UConn, the Hornets defeated the Huskies via three-set sweep on the road on Sept. 7, 2002. Sacramento State knocked off New Hampshire in Syracuse, N.Y. via three-set sweep on Aug. 29, 2009.

Coming Off A 20-Win Season and South Division Title

• Last year, Sacramento State posted a 20-12 overall record, a 13-3 mark in the Big Sky Conference, 9-3 at home, 8-5 on the road and 3-4 on neutral floors.
• The Hornets won the Big Sky's South Division for the first time and assumed the No. 2 seed at the conference tournament before falling in four sets to Northern Arizona in the semifinals.
• Sacramento State has now posted back-to-back 20-win seasons, combining for a 46-19 overall mark and a 25-7 record in league over that span.
• The Hornets have not lost a home match against a conference team since 2014, going 8-0 inside the Nest each of the last two years.
• Last season, Sacramento State led the 12-team Big Sky in kills (13.80 per set), assists (12.83 per set) and digs (17.72 per set). The digs per set also ranked as the eighth best mark in the nation.
• The Hornets won each of their final eight regular season matches and improved the winning streak to nine with a Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal victory over Eastern Washington. However, that nine-match winning streak came to an end with the 3-1 semifinal loss to Northern Arizona.

A Lot Of Returners, But Three Huge Losses

• The Hornets welcome back 12 players from a season ago, including four starters.
• Among the returners are starters at setter (senior Kennedy Kurtz), outside hitter (senior Shannon Boyle, junior Mikaela Nocetti) and middle blocker (junior Brie Gathright). Both Kurtz and Nocetti will be this year's team captains.
• Kurtz was a first team all-league selection after ranking 14th in the nation with 11.29 assists per set while Boyle was a second team choice after ranking fourth in the Big Sky with 3.49 kills per set.
• The Hornets, however, will have to compensate for the losses of three graduated seniors who were each named second team all-Big Sky. That list includes Lexie Skalbeck who was also named the Big Sky Libero of the Year. Middle blocker Courtney Dietrich (led the Big Sky with a .369 hitting percentage) and rightside hitter Madeline Cannon (3.06 kps, 3.66 pps) were also huge contributors to a Hornet team that won 17 matches by four sets or less.

Hornet Notables

• Sacramento State took an 11-day tour of China from May 31-June 10 that included six matches against local college and junior professional teams. The Hornets spent three days in Shanghai, followed by three days in Nanjing, and the rest of the trip took place in Beijing. The trip was the first abroad for Sacramento State volleyball.
• The China trip was inspired by former longtime assistant coach Weidi Zhang (pronounced Way-DEE ZONG), who came out of retirement this year and will serve as the team's volunteer assistant.
• Since volleyball became a sport at Sacramento State, the program is just 33 wins shy of 1,000 victories. The Hornets have a 967-439 overall record, good for a .688 winning percentage.
Ruben Volta begins his 10th season at head coach, and the 2015 Big Sky Coach of the Year has been a member of the coaching staff a combined 17 years – one year as the associate head coach (2007), five years as an assistant (2002-06) and two seasons as a volunteer assistant (2000-01).
• For the first time in four years, the Hornets will have a new starting libero as Lexie Skalbeck was the starter three straight seasons until graduating last year. This year's starting libero will likely be fourth-year senior Brigitte Murdock.
• After spending two years as volunteer assistant coach, John Fluette (pronounced FLOO-ett) will make his Hornet debut as assistant coach this week.