Big Sky Conference standings
POCATELLO, Idaho — Sacramento State outside hitter Mikaela Nocetti had a match-high 20 kills, including three in the decisive fifth set, to lead the Hornets to a 3-2 victory (25-22, 25-20, 15-25, 23-25, 15-11) over Idaho State on Thursday evening at Reed Gym.
Playing in their second to last match of the regular season, the Hornets won their fourth straight while improving to 23-8 overall and 14-1 in the Big Sky. Having already clinched the Big Sky's regular season championship last week, Sacramento State is playing out the remainder of the conference schedule which includes Saturday at Weber State in the regular season finale. The Hornets will host the eight-team conference tournament Nov. 16-18, and will be the No. 1 seed.
Sacramento State's 14-1 Big Sky record is tied for the program's best mark since joining the league in 1996. A win on Saturday at Weber State would allow the Hornets to finish the regular season with a program-record tying 15-1 record. Only the 1998 and 2006 squads were able to finish with a 15-1 Big Sky record. Not only has Sacramento State won four straight, the Hornets have also won 14 of the last 15, and 20 of the last 23 matches.
Tonight's win allowed the Hornets to sweep the season series from Idaho State, as the Hornets won in three against the Bengals in Sacramento on Sept. 23. With the loss, Idaho State dropped to 11-17 overall and 8-8 in the Big Sky. The Hornets are now 32-13 all-time against the Bengals, including a 14-8 record when playing in Pocatello.
Sacramento State jumped out early, taking a 2-0 lead only to see Idaho State bounce back to tie the match at 2-2. In the fourth set, Sacramento State squandered a 22-20 lead as Idaho State was able to overcome the deficit and force a fifth set.
In the fifth, Idaho State jumped out to a 3-0 lead only to see the Hornets bounce back and eventually take their first lead at 7-6 on a Nocetti kill. In fact, in a set that featured four ties and three lead changes, Sacramento State was able to close the match on an 11-5 run. In that fifth set, Sacramento State limited Idaho State to a .077 hitting percentage while getting three kills from both Nocetti and true freshman Macey Hayden. Hayden entered the match at outside hitter after Idaho State took a 3-0 lead, and the Hornets proceeded to outscore the Bengals, 15-8, the rest of the way.
Idaho State held advantages over Sacramento State in hitting percentage (.249-.205), digs (96-83), team blocks (11.0-6.0) and points (82.0-81.0). Sacramento State had two more aces and two more kills than the Bengals.
Four of Sacramento State's starters had double figures in kills, including Nocetti who had 20 kills, 12 digs and a .294 hitting percentage. Nocetti had three kills, six digs and a .600 hitting percentage in the fifth set. Rightside hitter Sarah Davis had 11 kills, three blocks and a .346 hitting percentage, and Brie Gathright tacked on 10 kills, two blocks and a .429 hitting percentage.
Rounding out the Hornets with double-figure kills were middle blocker Lana Brown's 10 kills and three blocks. Setter Kennedy Kurtz went over 50 assists for the fourth straight match and finished with 56 assists and 14 digs. Outside hitter Shannon Boyle had nine kills and nine digs, and libero Brigitte Murdock had 27 digs and a career-high tying three aces. Defensive specialist Skyler Takeda matched her career high with 13 digs while tacking on two aces (including one in the fifth set that gave the Hornets an 8-6 lead). Hayden finished with four kills in two sets played.
Idaho State's Chloe Hirst had 19 kills and 19 digs, Abby Garrity had 17 kills and 10 digs, and Haylie Keck led all players with 33 digs.
The Hornets will play on Saturday night against Weber State at 6 p.m. PST. Sacramento State last played Weber State in the conference opener on Sept. 21 at the Nest, which resulted in a 3-1 Hornet victory.
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