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QUEENS, N.Y. -- Sacramento State had 17.0 team blocks and limited UConn to a .165 hitting percentage as the Hornets knocked off the Huskies, 3-2 (25-13, 25-22, 16-25, 31-33, 15-7) in the first round of the Jack Kaiser Volleyball Classic at the Taffner Field House.
St. John's is hosting the five team tournament and today's match marked the season opener for both Sacramento State and UConn. The two-day tournament will feature all five teams playing four matches, as the Hornets return later today to face St. John's at 4 p.m. PDT. A free live video stream of this evening's match can be found by clicking here.
UConn, a member of the American Athletic Conference, was limited to a .203 hitting percentage or below in four of the five sets, including a negative percentage (-.036) in the fifth. In fact, the Hornets' 17.0 team blocks were the most since Nov. 15, 2012, when Sacramento State had 17 blocks in a 3-2 home win over Montana State. Four different Hornets either set or were close to setting career highs in blocks. That included career high block totals from setter Kennedy Kurtz (8), middle blocker Lana Brown (8) and rightside hitter Sarah Davis (4). Middle blocker Brie Gathright (9) was one shy of matching her career high.
Sacramento State's defense, which finished with 80 digs, forced UConn into 30 errors in 194 attacks and a .165 hitting percentage. That included a fifth set in which the Huskies had five kills with six errors in 28 swings.
In a match that lasted two hours and 15 minutes, the teams split the first four sets, and Sacramento State was able to bounce back from a fourth frame in which UConn saved eight match points before finally pulling out the set, 33-31.
In the fifth set, after UConn won the first point, Sacramento State ripped off a 9-1 run and Kurtz was on the service line for the eight of those points. The senior co-captain had back-to-back aces at 7-1 and 8-1 to give the Hornets a commanding lead. UConn would eventually slice the Hornet lead to 11-6, but Sacramento State ran off four of the final five points of the set to claim victory.
"I was extremely happy how we started the match and felt like we were doing everything well," Sacramento State head coach Ruben Volta said. "UConn, to their credit, began playing much better in the second set and both teams went back and forth for a while, including some really good rallies in the fourth set. In the fifth, we started digging a lot of balls (13), began to pull away, and eventually got the win."
Making just her fifth collegiate start, Brown was incredible for the Hornets, notching career highs in kills (14) and blocks (8) while hitting a match-best .591. The fourth-year junior middle blocker had 14 kills with just one error in 22 swings. That included a fifth set where she had two kills, two blocks and a .500 hitting percentage. In addition, Davis, who played in six matches a year ago as a freshman, made her first collegiate start and played well at rightside hitter. Davis finished with career highs in kills (9), digs (5), blocks (4) and hitting percentage (.471), finishing with just one error in 17 swings.
Hornet starters accounted for all 57 of the team's kills, as outside hitter Shannon Boyle had 13 kills and 17 digs, Mikaela Nocetti finished 10 kills and 12 digs, and Gathright had eight kills and nine blocks (two solos). Kurtz was two blocks shy of her first career triple-double after finishing with 42 assists, three aces, 12 digs and eight blocks. The eight blocks were two more than her previous career high of six, set on two occasions.
Five Hornets had double figures in digs, including libero Brigitte Murdock (19) and Hannah Meadows (career-high 13).
After playing later today, Sacramento State will play twice tomorrow against Holy Cross (9 a.m. PDT) and New Hampshire (2 p.m. PDT).
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