VOLLEYBALL BEATS NAU, OFF TO THE BEST CONFERENCE START IN SCHOOL HISTORY

VOLLEYBALL BEATS NAU, OFF TO THE BEST CONFERENCE START IN SCHOOL HISTORY

SACRAMENTO -- Mikaela Nocetti had career highs in both kills (21) and digs (22) and Sacramento State had four starters hit at least .300 in a 3-1 victory (25-23, 25-11, 22-25, 27-25) over Northern Arizona in a Big Sky Conference matchup Saturday afternoon inside the Nest.

With the victory, Sacramento State (17-7, 8-0) continues its perfect conference season, and remains in first place in the Big Sky's South Division. The Hornets have won eight straight, and 14 of the last 16 matches. In addition, the 8-0 record ties the best start since the program joined the Big Sky in 1996. The 2007 squad, which advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, also began the year 8-0. No Hornet volleyball team has ever started a conference season with a 9-0 record.

Dating back to last year, Sacramento State has now won 16 consecutive regular season matches against Big Sky opposition. The Hornets won eight straight last year to close the regular season.

In addition, Sacramento State has won 22 consecutive home matches against Big Sky competition, a streak which dates back to Sept. 24, 2015. The Hornets are 6-0 this year at home against league foes, and today's victory wrapped up a perfect 4-0 homestand which included wins over North Dakota, Northern Colorado and Southern Utah.

Sacramento State continued its dominance of Northern Arizona, improving to 35-17 all-time against the Lumberjacks. That includes a ridiculous 23-1 mark when playing NAU at home. The Lumberjacks, who were coming off a big road win at Portland State on Thursday night, dropped to 7-12 overall and 3-5 in the Big Sky.

Sacramento State finished today's match with 65 kills, 62 assists, five aces, 98 digs and 14.0 team blocks, good for huge averages of 16.25 kills, 15.50 assists, 24.50 digs and 3.50 blocks per set. The 98 digs were the second highest output of the season despite the match lasting just four sets. The Hornets had three players with at least 20 digs, and five in double figures. That included Nocetti (22), Shannon Boyle (21), Brigitte Murdock (20), Kennedy Kurtz (16) and Skyler Takeda (13).

The Hornets came up with big plays late in both the first and fourth sets. None more impressive than the fourth set when the Hornets saved three set points after trailing, 24-21. In fact, Sacramento State closed on a 6-1 run which saw Boyle connect on four of her 14 kills during the spurt. That included the match winner, a hard hit ball down the center of the court that NAU couldn't dig. In the first set, with the Hornets leading, 24-23, it was Nocetti that put things away with a kill.

Nocetti was unstoppable all afternoon, tying her career high for kills and easily setting her career high in digs. The 21 kill, 22 dig performance accompanied a .300 hitting percentage. Today caps an incredible week for the junior outside hitter. In two matches, Nocetti averaged a massive 5.86 kills and 3.86 digs per set while hitting .400, putting her in line for a good chance at Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week.

Boyle had 14 kills and 21 digs, with eight of those kills coming in the fourth set. Rightside hitter Sarah Davis had a career-best 11 kills to go along with four blocks and a .320 hitting percentage. Nocetti and Davis were two of four Hornet starters to hit at least .300, a list that included Lana Brown (7 kills, 6 blocks, .300 hitting percentage) and Kurtz (.625). Kurtz, a fourth-year starting setter and team co-captain, put up stat sheet stuffing numbers of five kills, 54 assists, two aces, 16 digs and six blocks. Middle blocker Brie Gathright added seven kills and six blocks. The 14.0 team blocks were the third highest output of the year.

Libero Brigitte Murdock added 20 digs and defensive specialist Skyler Takeda had a career-best 13 digs and an ace. Takeda was impressive at the service line all afternoon, hitting lasers that NAU had trouble passing, and in turn, running any kind of effective offense every time she served.

For NAU, Abby Akin (14 kills, 7 blocks), Sydney Lema (16 kills, 15 digs) and Kaylie Jorgenson (12 kills, 27 digs) combined for 42 of the Lumberjacks' 53 kills.

At the midway point of the conference season, Sacramento State will now play each of its next four, and six of its final eight Big Sky matches on the road. That includes a four-game road trip next week at Idaho on Thursday night at 7 p.m. and Eastern Washington on Saturday at 2 p.m. Idaho, which hosts Eastern Washington tonight, sits atop the Big Sky's North Division with a 6-1 conference record.