VOLLEYBALL BEGINS ROAD TRIP WITH THREE MATCHES THIS WEEK
A Look At This Week
Currently in fourth place in the Big Sky Conference standings, the Sacramento State volleyball squad (8-17, 6-4) begins a five-match road trip this week. The Hornets will play their final non-conference match of the season on Tuesday against Pacific (7 p.m.) before jumping back into Big Sky play on Friday at Idaho State (2 p.m. PST) and Saturday at Weber State (6:30 p.m. PST).
With six conference matches remaining on the schedule, the Hornets will use the final three weeks of the regular season to hopefully strengthen their hold among the league’s top six teams. The top six squads in the nine-member conference reach the Big Sky Tournament, which will be held in Portland on Nov. 28-29. Sacramento State, which has never finished worse than second in the league standings since joining the Big Sky in 1996, are 2.5 games back of first-place Northern Colorado (9-2), and a game and half up on sixth-place Northern Arizona (5-6) and Weber State (5-6).
The Hornets are 1-8 on the road this year, but have shown signs lately of righting the ship away from home. Two weeks ago, Sacramento State knocked off Portland State (currently the second-place team) in Portland, only to lose in five sets the next day at Eastern Washington (currently the third place team).
Pacific will enter Tuesday’s match with a 7-13 overall record after knocking off both Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara at home last week. In fact, the Tigers are now 6-0 at home this year. Sacramento State is just 5-25 all-time against Pacific, but has won the last three meetings dating back to 2004. The Hornets picked up their first-ever win in Stockton (1-13) the last time the two teams met on Pacific’s home floor in 2005.
Idaho State (7-17, 3-8) will host non-conference foe Montana Western on Thursday before hosting the Hornets on Friday. The match time was moved up to 2 p.m. PST because Idaho State will host a men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader later that evening. The Hornets defeated Idaho State earlier this year in Sacramento and have won eight straight meetings dating back to 2004. The Hornets are 24-2 all-time against the Bengals.
Weber State (15-11, 5-6) will host Utah Valley on Tuesday before its matchup with the Hornets on Saturday. The Wildcats have lost three of their last four, but all three of those losses came on the road. In Ogden, Weber State is 5-3 this year, including victories over Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona. The Hornets defeated the Wildcats in five sets earlier this year in Sacramento and are 22-6 all-time against Weber State.
Broadcast/Live Stats Information
On Tuesday, Pacific’s website (www.pacifictigers.com) will provide live stats and audio for the match. Live video can be obtained for a fee at www.bigwest.tv. Both Friday and Saturday’s matches can be seen live and free on www.bigskytv.org. In addition, live stats for Friday’s match can be found on www.isubengals.com, and Saturday’s match can be found at www.weberstatesports.com.
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 206-80 overall record, a 105-23 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.
Then and Now
After a rough start to the season that saw the Hornets go 2-14 through their first 16 matches, Sacramento State has won six of its last nine matches since the calendar turned to October. 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 nine matches, the Hornets have averaged 13.34 kills, 18.16 digs and 2.05 blocks per set. That includes a .202 hitting percentage over that span after the team had gone nine consecutive matches with sub .200 hitting percentages.
Streaks & Figures
After losing four starters (two outsides, two middles) and the libero from last year’s team, Sacramento State is experiencing its first sub -.500 season since the team posted a 13-19 record during its initial year of Div. I play in 1991. Many impressive streaks and records have fallen this year, or could fall, demonstrating how good the program has been since 1976. Here are some...
- Through 25 matches, the Hornets’ 8-17 record is the worst mark in program history.
- 13 straight years of 20 victories will likely come to a close this year.
- Prior to the season, the program’s longest losing streak had been seven matches long.
- The Hornets have winning records 30 times in the last 32 years. The last sub-.500 season came 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.
After recording zero double-doubles (double figures in both kills and digs) through the first 13 matches of the season, senior outside hitter Desiree Hoyum has nine in her last 12 matches (and four in a row). Over that 12-match stretch, she is averaging 3.38 kills and 3.44 digs per set. Among those double-doubles was a career-high 20 kill performance at Weber State, and a career-high 27 digs at Portland State. The Anderson, Calif., native is now averaging 2.83 kills and 2.69 digs per set overall, with both marks easily being career highs.
The Youth Movement
Nine of the 14 players on Sacramento State’s roster are freshmen or sophomores, and many 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 (25 starts), and freshmen Kelsey Elston (21), Eryn Kirby (18), 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 An Underclassman
Sophomore middle hitter Maddison Thivierge has totalled at least nine kills in eight straight matches, the longest stretch of her career. This comes after recording better than eight kills in just six of the first 17 contests of the season. During the last eight contests, she is averaging 2.49 kills per set while hitting .315 (87-23-203). In addition, the Ashland, Ore., native has recorded double digits in kills and at least a .346 hitting percentage in three consecutive matches. Overall, her .241 hitting percentage this season is the best by a Hornet with more than 40 kills.
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 836-309 record (.730 winning percentage) since 1976, and a 416-192 (.684) 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.
Freshman middle hitter Kelsey Elston combined for 17 blocks over her last two matches, and her 10 blocks against Northern Arizona on Saturday are tied for the highest mark in the Big Sky Conference this year. She is now the team leader with an average of 0.74 blocks per set...junior right back Melissa Melcher is averaging 2.42 digs per set over the last nine matches, including a career-high 20 digs vs. Northern Colorado...despite being a setter, senior Rose Burke has combined for 20 kills over her last four matches and is hitting .408 (20-3-42) during that stretch...senior rightside hitter Brittany Ferguson has tallied 12 kills in three straight matches...freshman outside hitter Eryn Kirby has tallied double-figure kills in four consecutive matches after doing so just four times through the first 21 contests...senior libero Katie Van Der Wende has now moved up to third in the Big Sky with 4.78 digs per set against conference competition.