SACRAMENTO -- Four starters hit better than .350 and Sacramento State hit a season-high .371 on the way to a three-set sweep (25-17, 25-16, 25-18) of Southern Utah in a Big Sky Conference volleyball match Thursday evening at the Nest.
The Hornets had 49 kills with just 10 errors in 105 swings, and hit better than .320 in all three sets. The foursome of outside hitter Mikaela Nocetti (20 kills, .543), middle blockers Lana Brown (10 kills, .643) and Brie Gathright (5 kills, .556), and rightside hitter Sarah Davis (6 kills, .357) combined for 41 kills and a .528 hitting percentage.
With the victory, Sacramento State (16-7, 7-0) continues its perfect conference season, and remains in first place in the Big Sky's South Division. The Hornets have won seven straight, and 13 of the last 15 matches after beginning the season with a 3-5 record.
Dating back to last year, Sacramento State has now won 15 consecutive regular season matches against Big Sky opposition. The Hornets won eight straight last year to close the regular season. Ten of those 15 wins during the streak have come via three-set sweep.
In addition, Sacramento State has won 21 consecutive home matches against Big Sky competition, a streak which dates back to Sept. 24, 2015. The Hornets are 5-0 this year at home against league foes, and wrap up their season-long four-game homestand on Saturday against Northern Arizona at 1 p.m.
Since joining the Big Sky in 1996, only one other Hornet squad has started the conference season 7-0, and that came during the 2007 season. That 2007 team, which advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, began the conference season with an 8-0 record, but dropped its ninth match.
With the loss, Southern Utah, which was coming off a win against Eastern Washington on Saturday, dropped to 6-13 overall and 1-6 in the Big Sky. The Hornets are 7-4 all-time against SUU, with each of those matches coming since the Thunderbirds joined the Big Sky in 2012. Sacramento State is also 5-1 at home against the Thunderbirds. It was Southern Utah that was the last Big Sky team to beat the Hornets inside the Nest, and that came in five sets on Nov. 15, 2014.
The Hornets' largest deficit of the evening was 4-1 early in the third set as Sacramento State was never really threatened in any of the three frames. In fact, despite the match lasting only three sets, Sacramento State accounted for 49 kills, 49 assists, seven aces, 50 digs and seven team blocks. The Hornets had large statistical advantages over Southern Utah in kills (49-31), hitting percentage (.371-.162), assists (49-31), aces (7-5), digs (50-41) and team blocks (7.0-4.0).
Nocetti's 20 kills were one shy of a career high, and the .543 hitting percentage was easily a career best. The junior outside hitter had six kills in the first set, seven more in the second, and seven in the third. She had just one error in 35 attacks, and also added two aces, five digs and a career-high tying three blocks.
Brown's 10 kills accompanied a career-best .643 hitting percentage as she had just one error in 14 swings. Gathright hit at least .300 for the seventh straight match after tallying five kills (5-0-9) and four blocks. During that seven-match stretch, she is hitting .441 with averages of 2.04 kills and 1.00 blocks per set.
Setter Kennedy Kurtz had 43 assists, two aces and 10 digs, outside hitter Shannon Boyle had 10 digs and libero Brigitte Murdock had 12 digs. True freshman Macey Hayden had three kills, an ace and six digs in the third set alone. Head coach Ruben Volta used 12 players in tonight's match, including middle blocker Erin Cochran who had a solo stuff late in the third set.
Sacramento State's game against Northern Arizona at 1 p.m. on Saturday is part of a tripleheader on campus that will see the Hornet men's soccer team host UC Davis at 3 p.m., and the football team host Idaho State at 6 p.m.
Saturday also marks the final time Sacramento State will be at home until Nov. 2. The team begins a four-game road trip next week against both Idaho and Eastern Washington.
NOTES -- Tonight was Kids Night and Alumni Appreciation Night…kids 12 and under were admitted free and received posters that were autographed by Hornet players after the match…many Hornet volleyball alumni were in attendance to watch the match as well.
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