VOLLEYBALL BEGINS BIG SKY TOURNAMENT PLAY ON FRIDAY
The Week Ahead
For the 14th time since joining the Big Sky Conference in 1996, the Sacramento State volleyball squad will take part in this week’s Big Sky Tournament. The conference’s postseason event (Nov. 25-26) features the top four teams in the nine-member league, and will take place at the Stott Center in Portland, Ore.
The seeds for the tournament are as follows: No. 1 seed Northern Colorado (20-8, 13-3), No. 2 Portland State (17-12, 12-4), No. 3 Sacramento State (17-14, 10-6) and No. 4 Eastern Washington (13-14, 9-7). Portland State is the host institution of the single-elimination tournament by virtue of winning last year’s regular season championship.
In the tournament’s first semifinal, Northern Colorado will take on Eastern Washington at 5:30 p.m., followed by the second semifinal featuring Portland State and Sacramento State at 7:30 p.m. (or a half hour after the first semifinal concludes). The winner of the two semifinal matches will play for the conference championship and automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The NCAA Tournament has taken just one team from the Big Sky each of the last 11 years, making the automatic berth that much more important. Three teams appeared in the 1999 NCAA Tournament comprised of Northern Arizona, Eastern Washington and Sacramento State.
Every match of the Big Sky Tournament can be watched live and free via video stream at www.bigskytv.org. In addition, Portland State’s website (www.goviks.com) will provide live stats for each match.
Hornets At The Big Sky Tournament
Since joining the Big Sky Conference in 1996, Sacramento State has posted a 20-4 record at the postseason event, including a run of 12 straight victories that spanned six years (2002-07). That streak was broken with a 2008 quarterfinal loss to Northern Colorado, which also marks the last time the Hornets qualified for the Big Sky Tournament.
In 13 Big Sky Tournament appearances (1996-08), Sacramento State has won the title nine times (1997-98, 2000, 2002-07). Of those 13 appearances, the team has reached the championship match every year except 1999 and 2008). That includes an 11-1 all-time record in the semifinal round of the Big Sky Tournament. Combined with team’s eight regular season crowns (1997-01, 2005-07), Sacramento State won 11 straight Big Sky regular season and/or tournament titles.
Brief Look At The Hornets
Sacramento State has won three of its last four matches heading into the Big Sky Tournament, but finished the regular season on Saturday with a three-set loss at Portland State. However, the Hornets rested two starters (rightside hitter Kayla Beal and middle blocker Maddison Thivierge) and one of the team’s two primary setters (Anna Schoener) in that match to heal various injuries. All three players are probable to play Friday in the semifinals against Portland State. Saturday marked just the fourth time the team has been swept all season, and first since a loss to Utah Valley on Sept. 17.
Hornets Against The Tournament Field
Sacramento State combined to post a 4-2 record against the other three teams in the Big Sky Tournament. That includes a 2-0 record against Eastern Washington, and 1-1 against both Northern Colorado and Portland State. In fact, had the Hornets finished tied in the standings with any of those three teams, Sacramento State would have owned the tiebreaker. The Hornets swept all three teams in convincing fashion at home.
Sacramento State is currently the only team in the nation to rank among the top 40 in both digs and blocks per set. Among national leaders, the Hornets’ average of 18.35 digs per set is the 10th best mark, and the team’s 2.79 blocks per set is the 12th best mark. Its no secret that Sacramento State will usually win its matches with defense as the team is limiting Big Sky opponents to a .129 hitting percentage, easily the best mark in the conference. Defense has been a long-standing tradition at Sacramento State as the Hornets have ranked among the nation’s top 25 teams in digs per set 11 times in the last 16 years.
The Hornets are 16-1 when limiting the opposition to a hitting percentage below .165, and 1-13 when the opposition hits .165 or better.
In conference play, Sacramento State has recorded 96 aces (compared to just 66 for the opposition), and is easily the top team in the league with an average of 1.55 aces per set. The Hornets currently have four players ranking among the conference’s top nine in aces per set, comprised of Janelle Currey (3rd, 0.30), Sydney Kordic (T-4th, 0.28), Breanne Menees (8th, 0.27) and Kelsey Elston (9th, 0.26).
Its Senior Time
Sacramento State has five seniors on the active roster, and each has played a prominent role in the team’s success this season. That includes a sixth-year senior (setter Anna Schoener), fifth-year senior (middle blocker Maddison Thivierge), and three fourth-year seniors (middle blocker Kelsey Elston, libero Breanne Menees and outside hitter Eryn Kirby). The only one of those seniors that doesn’t consistently start is Schoener, but she rotates with fellow setter Hannah Hettinga in the team’s modified 5-1 offense. Schoener and Elston are team tri-captains along with junior Janelle Currey. Thivierge played in 24 matches for the 2007 Hornet squad that won a Big Sky title while Schoener appeared in all 36 matches for Sacramento State’s 2006 championship-winning team.