VOLLEYBALL TRAVELS TO PORTLAND STATE AND EASTERN WASHINGTON
A Look At This Week
Winners of four of its last five matches, the Sacramento State volleyball squad (6-15, 4-2) returns to action this week for a pair of road contests at Portland State (Friday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m.) and Eastern Washington (Saturday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m.). The Hornets, who defeated both Montana and Montana State at home last week, are currently all alone in third place in the Big Sky Conference standings, just a half game back of Portland State (5-2) and Northern Colorado (5-2). Sacramento State began the season 0-2 in the Big Sky for the first time since joining the league in 1996, but has rebounded to win four straight conference matches.
The Hornets have won four in a row at home, but have struggled on the road. In fact, the team is 0-7 on the road this year and has been outscored in sets, 21-3. The Hornets hope to right the ship on the road as they embark upon arguably the toughest road trip in the Big Sky as Eastern Washington and Portland State are perennially two of the top teams in the conference. In fact, Sacramento State has played either Portland State or Eastern Washington in the Big Sky Tournament championship match each of the last eight years, with the Hornets winning seven times.
Eastern Washington (8-9, 4-3) is undefeated at home this year with victories over Montana State (3-0), Montana (3-1) and Portland State (3-1). The Eagles have won four of their last six matches, including a win over Gonzaga on Monday. Sacramento State is 26-8 all-time against Eastern Washington and has defeated the Eagles 10 straight times dating back to 2004.
Portland State (12-5, 5-2), which was picked to win the conference in the preseason coaches poll, is 5-1 at home this year. The Vikings lost twice on the road last week, snapping their five-match winning streak. Sacramento State is 32-13 in the long-standing rivalry between the two teams, including a 12-6 mark in Portland. However, the Hornets have lost in Portland each of the last three years.
Broadcast/Live Stats Information
Both matches this week can be seen live and free on www.bigskytv.org. In addition, live stats can be found on Eastern Washington’s (www.goeags.com) and Portland State’s (www.goviks.com) website. Every match the rest of the season, except for the contest at Pacific on Nov. 4, can be seen live and free on www.bigskytv.org.
Head Coach Ruben Volta
Ruben Volta is currently in his first year as head coach at Sacramento State, taking over for Debby Colberg, who announced her retirement after 32 years with the Hornets. Volta is no stranger to the program as he served the previous eight years on Colberg’s staff, including the Associate Head Coaching duties in 2007. During Volta’s tenure with the program, Sacramento State has combined for a 204-78 overall record, a 103-21 mark in the Big Sky Conference, seven Big Sky Tournament championships, five regular season conference titles and seven NCAA Tournament appearances. A graduate of Sacramento State, Volta was an All-American setter for the Hornets in 1995. He also ran the High Voltage volleyball facility from 1995-02, a club which produced nine former Hornets, including first team all-conference performers Sandra Bandimere, Tasman Dwyer (MVP), Kazmiera Imrie and Michelle Franz.
Home vs. Road
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the Hornets have struggled on the road this year. Especially when you consider the team is 4-3 at home compared to 0-7 on the road. The biggest disparity can be found in the hitting percentage department where the Hornets are hitting .227 (374-145-1008) at home compared to just .111 (248-152-867) on the road. In addition, the team is averaging 13.36 kills per set at home, compared to just 10.33 kills on the road. Below are some of the individual hitting percentage disparities at home and on the road.
Rose Burke .260 .029
Brittany Ferguson .261 .039
Maddison Thivierge .308 .140
Kelsey Elston .288 .162
Olivia Moss .308 .188
Desiree Hoyum .182 .101
Eryn Kirby .189 .126
Streaks & Figures
After losing four starters (two outsides, two middles) and the libero from last year’s team, Sacramento State is experiencing its first down year since the team posted a 13-19 record during its first year of Div. I play in 1991. Many impressive streaks and records have fallen this year, or could fall, which demonstrates just how good the program has been since 1976. Here are some...
- 13 straight years of 20 victories will come to a close this year.
- Prior to this year, the program’s longest losing streak had been seven matches long.
- Sacramento State has posted winning records 30 times in the last 32 years, with the last sub-.500 record coming in 1991.
- The Hornets lost two consecutive conference matches for the first time since 1999.
- The team was 0-2 in conference play for the first time since joining the Big Sky in 1996.
- Sacramento State lost back-to-back matches by 3-0 scores for the first time since 2005.
- The Hornets lost three straight home matches for the first time since 1992.
- Sacramento State has never finished anything worse than second in the Big Sky.
Now That’s More Like It
After a rough start to the season that saw the Hornets go 2-14 through their first 16 matches, Sacramento State has won four of its last five matches spanning the last two weeks. The biggest difference in the turnaround is the team has played more consistently in all aspects of the game, especially attacking, defense and blocking. Through 16 matches, the team had averaged just 10.91 kills, 13.51 digs and 1.56 blocks per set. However, over the last five matches, the Hornets have averaged 13.89 kills, 16.79 digs and 2.00 blocks per set. That includes a .222 hitting percentage after the team had gone nine consecutive matches with sub .200 hitting percentages.
The Youth Movement
Nine of the 14 players on Sacramento State’s roster are freshmen or sophomores, and eight of those underclassmen are receiving playing time – sophomore Anna Schoener is taking a medical redshirt.
Seven of those underclassmen have started matches, comprised of sophomore Maddison Thivierge (21 starts), and freshmen Kelsey Elston (17), Eryn Kirby (14), Breanne Menees (5), Olivia Moss (4), Shannon Wilson (1) and Cayti Crowton (1). After losing seven players last season, including four starters (both outsides and both middles), the libero and one of the best senior classes in school history, head coach Ruben Volta knew the team had to go young this year.
Not Playing Like Freshmen
Arguably the most impressive freshmen on this year’s team have been middle hitter Kelsey Elston and outside hitter Eryn Kirby. After a slow start, Elston has come on nicely over the last two weeks. In fact, the Rocklin, Calif., native is averaging 1.68 kills and 1.00 blocks per set while hitting .319 over the last five matches. She had a season-high 11 kills and a .556 hitting percentage against Montana on Friday, and now leads the Hornets with a .349 hitting percentage against Big Sky competition.
Among team leaders, Kirby is second in aces (19), third in kills (2.13 per set) and fourth in digs (1.81 per set). She has tallied at least seven kills in six of her last seven matches after accomplishing the feat just four times in the first 13 matches of the season. That includes posting season highs in both kills (17) and digs (16) against Montana.
A History of Success
Sacramento State is one of just 19 teams to reach the NCAA Div. I Tournament at least 10 times in the last 11 years. Other teams to accomplish the feat are Colorado State, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas State, Long Beach State, Louisville, Minnesota, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pepperdine, San Diego, Santa Clara, Stanford, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, USC and Wisconsin. The Hornets have reached the NCAA Tournament in 1997-00, and 2002-07.
The team has compiled an 834-307 record (.731 winning percentage) since 1976, and a 414-190 (.685) record since joining the Div. I ranks in 1991. Sacramento State, which has recorded just two losing seasons in the last 32 years, has rattled off 13 straight seasons with at least 20 victories.
Over her last five matches, sophomore middle hitter Maddison Thivierge is averaging 2.74 kills and 0.68 blocks per set while hitting .330 (52-15-112) over that span...junior outside hitter Desiree Hoyum has double-doubles (kills and digs) in four of her last five matches, and is now tied for fifth in the Big Sky with five double-doubles this year. She had led or tied for the team lead in kills in seven consecutive matches prior to Thivierge leading the way with 12 kills against Montana State...despite being the team’s setter, senior Rose Burke has posted at least 17 digs three times in the last two weeks. She is now tied for second in the Big Sky with eight double-doubles (assists and digs)...junior Melissa Melcher has at least seven digs in five straight matches at right back...senior libero Katie Van Der Wende has posted double-figure digs in eight of her last nine matches and is now ninth in the Big Sky with 3.62 digs per set.