Big Sky Conference standings
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Sacramento State's long winning streak and perfect conference record was snapped by Northern Arizona tonight at the Rolle Activity Center. After winning the first frame, Sacramento State would eventually fall to the Lumberjacks in five sets by a 3-2 score (27-29, 25-14, 25-21, 20-25, 16-14).
In the process, Sacramento State lost a regular season conference match for the first time in more than a calendar year. The Hornets are now 19-8 overall and 10-1 in the Big Sky. Sacramento State's last regular season loss to a conference foe came at Northern Arizona on Oct. 15 of last year. Flagstaff has been tough on the Hornets as Sacramento State has now lost nine straight when playing on NAU's home floor and the team is just 10-15 all-time in Flagstaff. The Hornets have not won a road match at Northern Arizona since the 2009 season.
Not only did the Hornets' perfect conference season come to an end, the team did not convert on its first opportunity to post its third straight 20-win season. Sacramento State is now 19-8 overall and 10-1 in the Big Sky. The Hornets still sit one game ahead of Portland State (9-2) in the Big Sky's South Division while North Dakota is currently first in the North Division with a 9-2 mark. Sacramento State defeated both Portland State and North Dakota earlier this season, and owns the tiebreaker over both schools in a battle to win the Big Sky's regular season championship and host the conference tournament Nov. 16-18. Only five matches remain in the regular season.
Northern Arizona won its third straight while improving to 10-12 overall and 6-5 in the Big Sky. The two teams split the season series as the Hornets defeated the Lumberjacks, 3-1, at the Nest just 12 days ago. Sacramento State's 10-0 Big Sky record had been the program's best record since joining the Big Sky in 1996. The previous top mark was 8-0 in Big Sky play, set by the 2007 squad.
The Hornets had won 14 straight matches when winning the first set, but that long streak also came to an end. Northern Arizona had large advantages over Sacramento State in kills (73-59), hitting percentage (.281-.188), assists (68-55) and digs (97-85). In addition, the Hornets failed to take advantage of 16 Lumberjack service errors, including four in the fifth set. Sacramento State's .188 hitting percentage was the team's second lowest in the last 11 matches.
The fifth set included a massive nine tie scores as the two teams battled back and forth with neither squad holding more than a two-point advantage the entire way. Sacramento State's largest lead in the fifth came at 3-1 while NAU held a 12-10 advantage. The Hornets saved one match point to tie the score at 14-14, but the Lumberacks got a kill from Kaylie Jorgenson and a combo block from Victoria Ewalefo and Heaven Harris to end the match. The Hornets hit just .034 (6-5-29) in the fifth while NAU hit .250 (10-3-28) in the frame.
Harris had four kills and a .500 hitting percentage in the fifth set and could not be stopped all evening. The freshman rightside hitter finished with 18 kills, seven blocks and a .500 hitting percentage. The Hornets were also hurt by middle blockers Abby Akin (16 kills, .615 hitting percentage) and Ewalefo (seven kills, eight blocks, .429 hitting percentage). Jorgenson finished with 26 kills and 20 digs, but hit just .153.
For Sacramento State, outside hitter Shannon Boyle posted her first 20-20 match of the season, finishing with exactly 20 kills and 20 digs. She moved her career totals to 982 career kills and 976 digs in her pursuit of the 1,000 kills/1,000 digs milestone. Mikaela Nocetti, who entered the match leading the Big Sky in kills per set against league foes, finished with 16 kills and 18 digs. Middle blocker Lana Brown had eight kills, four blocks and a .500 hitting percentage, and rightside hitter Sarah Davis had eight kills, a .318 hitting percentage and career-high seven digs.
Setter Kennedy Kurtz finished with 48 assists, three aces, eight digs and career-high tying eight blocks. She also moved into fourth place all-time in Big Sky history with 5,082 career assists. Middle blocker Brie Gathright added five kills and five digs, libero Brigitte Murdock had 18 digs, and Skyler Tacked posted six digs.
The Hornets conclude their four-game road trip on Saturday when they take on Southern Utah at 6 p.m. PDT. The Hornets swept the Thunderbirds on Oct. 12 inside the Nest.