Big Sky Conference standings
FLAGSTAFF -- Northern Arizona hit .313 while Sacramento State was limited to a .081 percentage as the Lumberjacks defeated the Hornets, 3-0 (25-13, 25-22, 25-14), in a Big Sky Conference volleyball matchup Thursday evening at the Rolle Activity Center.
The loss snapped a five-match winning streak for the Hornets, who dropped to 13-12 overall and 8-3 in the Big Sky Conference. In fact, each of those five wins prior to tonight had come via three-set sweep. Sacramento State dropped into a three-way tie for second place in the conference standings with Northern Arizona and Weber State as each team is now 8-3. Idaho, which beat Idaho State at home tonight, is now all alone in first place with a 9-2 conference record. Only seven league matches remain on the regular season schedule.
Tonight's loss was the first for the Hornets since falling in four seats at Idaho on Oct. 4. Since that time, Sacramento State had posted three-set sweeps of Eastern Washington, Idaho State, Weber State, Montana State and Montana. In addition, the Hornets had not been swept by a conference opponent in over two calendar years with the last time coming on Oct. 15, 2016, at NAU.
Northern Arizona (16-8, 8-3) won its third straight and sixth in the last seven matches. The Lumberjacks are now 6-2 at home, which includes a win over then eighth-ranked Florida on Sept. 7. The Hornets and NAU split the season series, which included a five-set Sacramento State win inside the Nest on Sept. 29. However, should the two teams finish the season tied with the same conference record, NAU would win the tiebreaker by virtue of having a better set differential in the teams' two meetings (SAC won in five, NAU won in three).
Flagstaff continues to be a tough place for the Hornets. Sacramento State has now dropped 10 straight meetings against the Lumberjacks on the road. Overall, the Hornets are 10-16 on NAU's home floor. By contrast, Sacramento State is 24-1 all-time at home against Northern Arizona.
Sacramento State posted season lows in aces (1) and team blocks (1.0) while also recording its fourth lowest hitting percentage (.081). One of the nation's best serving teams, the only ace of the evening came from Skyler Takeda. In addition, the Hornets had not finished with anything less than five team blocks this season until recording one this evening.
Meanwhile Northern Arizona hit .313, the second highest percentage allowed by Sacramento State this season. The Lumberjacks had 44 kills with just eight errors in 115 attacks. Amazingly, NAU had just one attack error in both the first and third sets. NAU had sizable leads in every statistical category, which included a 44-31 advantage in kills and a 68-53 edge in digs.
For Sacramento State, middle blocker Brie Gathright had seven kills and a .389 hitting percentage. Gathright, who is hitting .348 in league play, is now hitting .406 over her last six matches. Setter Ashtin Olin had four kills, a .429 hitting percentage, 25 assists and six digs. Libero Paige Swinney had a team-high 18 digs while Takeda finished with 11 digs.
Outside hitter Mikaela Nocetti, who has won each of the last two Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week awards, was limited to seven kills. She had recorded double figures in kills in 12 straight matches until that streak came to an end this evening. Sarah Davis led the team with nine kills.
Three NAU players finished with double figures in kills, comprised of Ryann Davis (11 kills, .391), Kaylie Jorgenson (10 kills, .375) and Heaven Harris (10 kills, .360).
Of the Hornets' final seven regular season matches, four will come on the road. That includes this Saturday at Southern Utah when the Hornets and Thunderbirds square off at noon PDT.