Big Sky Conference standings
MOSCOW, Idaho — In a battle of the two first place teams in the Big Sky Conference, Sacramento State hit .364 on the way to a three-set sweep (25-23, 25-20, 25-23) of Idaho on Thursday evening at Memorial Gym.
With the victory, Sacramento State (18-7, 9-0) continues its perfect conference season, and remains in first place in the Big Sky's South Division. Tonight's win came against an Idaho team that had been 7-1 in league and sat atop the conference's North Division. In fact, with seven matches to play, not only are the Hornets the only team in the 12-member league with a perfect conference record, but they also own the inside track at hosting this year's Big Sky Tournament on Nov. 16-18. The regular season champion hosts the tournament and the Hornets essentially have a 2-game lead or better against every other team in the Big Sky.
The Hornets have won nine straight, and 15 of the last 17 matches. In addition, the 9-0 record is the best Big Sky mark in school history as the program joined the league in 1996. The 2007 squad, which advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, owned the previous best mark of 8-0.
Dating back to last year, Sacramento State has now won a massive 17 consecutive regular season matches against Big Sky opposition. The Hornets won eight straight last year to close the regular season. Of those 17 straight wins, 11 have come via three-set sweep.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that the Hornets have now won six straight matches when playing on an opponent's home floor this season. That includes a 3-0 record on the road against Big Sky teams with each of those outcomes resulting in a three-set sweep.
Idaho had its five-match winning streak snapped while falling to 12-8 overall and 7-2 in conference play. Tonight also marked Sacramento State's first-ever road win at Idaho as the two teams had played in Moscow just once previously (a 3-2 Idaho win in 2015). The Hornets are now 4-3 all-time against the Vandals.
In a match that saw just 19 combined attack errors between the two teams, Sacramento State hit .364 (50-10-110) while Idaho hit .356 (51-9-118). The Hornets' hitting percentage was their second best mark of the season as four different starters hit at least .375. That included middle blocker Lana Brown who had a team-best 12 kills without an error in 19 attacks, good for a .632 hitting percentage. She also had four blocks and the hitting percentage was the second best mark of her career.
Sacramento State had 50 digs and six aces, and came up with big plays late in both the first and third sets. In the first set, with the Hornets leading, 24-23, it was setter Kennedy Kurtz connecting on one of her four kills during the match to provide the 25-23 win. In the the third set, Sacramento State trailed, 22-21, but finished on a 4-1 run. That included three kills from reigning Big Sky Player of the Week Mikaela Nocetti and a service ace from Skyler Takeda. Nocetti's 11th kill of the match delivered the Hornet win.
"I was very pleased with the team's effort tonight," Sacramento State head coach Ruben Volta said. "Everyone played well at times, and this was a really good match to watch. We are 9-0 in conference, but there is still a lot of volleyball to be played this season. We've been taking things match by match, and not getting ahead of ourselves. Hopefully, we are able to keep this streak going."
Four Hornet starters hit at least .375, including Brown, rightside hitter Sarah Davis (7 kills, .462 hit%), middle blocker Brie Gathright (4 kills, .429 hit%) and Kurtz (4 kills, .375 hit%). Kurtz also had 45 assists and five digs, and is now 23 assists shy of becoming the fourth player in school history with 5,000 career assists.
Joining Brown with double figures in kills were Shannon Boyle (11 kills, match-high 18 digs) and Nocetti (11 kills). Boyle is now just 48 kills shy of notching her 1,000th career kill. Libero Brigitte Murdock added 13 digs, and Takeda had nine digs and two aces. Her second and final ace came at a crucial time with the Hornets leading 23-22 in the third set.
Idaho had three players record double figures in kills, comprised of Sarah Sharp (15 kills, .351 hit%), Kaela Straw (14 kills, .400 hit%) and Reece Carman (10 kills, .450 hit%).
The Hornets will play the second leg of their four-game road trip at Eastern Washington on Saturday at 2 p.m.