VOLLEYBALL LOOKS FOR SEVENTH STRAIGHT BIG SKY TOURNAMENT TITLE THIS WEEK
BIG SKY CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
All Matches Played at the Stott Center in Portland, Ore.
Live Video: www.bigskytv.org; Live Stats: www.goviks.com
Fri., Nov. 28 - No. 4 Montana vs. No. 5 Weber State - 9:30 a.m.
Fri., Nov. 28 - No. 3 Northern Colorado vs. No. 6 Sacramento State - 11:30 a.m.
Fri., Nov. 28 - No. 1 Eastern Washington vs. Winner of Quarterfinal 1 - 5:30 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 28 - No. 2 Portland State vs. Winner of Quarterfinal 2 - 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 29 - Winner of Semifinal 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal 2 - 7:00 p.m.
For the 13th consecutive season, and every year since joining the Big Sky Conference in 1996, the Sacramento State volleyball team will participate in this week’s Big Sky Tournament. The conference’s postseason event (Nov. 28-29) features the top six teams in the nine-member league, and will take place in Portland, Ore., snapping a run of three straight years the tournament was played in Sacramento.
The seeds for the tournament are as follows: No. 1 Eastern Washington (17-10, 12-4), No. 2 Portland State (18-8, 11-5), No. 3 Northern Colorado (16-9, 10-6), No. 4 Montana (14-12, 10-6), No. 5 Weber State (20-12, 9-7) and No. 6 Sacramento State (10-22, 8-8). Northern Arizona, Idaho State and Montana State did not qualify for the tournament. By virtue of owning the top two seeds, both Eastern Washington and Portland State will receive a first round bye in the single-elimination tournament. Portland State is the host institution by virtue of winning a share of last year’s regular season title with Sacramento State, and owning the tiebreaker over the Hornets.
On Friday, Dec. 28, Montana and Weber State will square off in the first quarterfinal at 9:30 a.m., while Sacramento State and Northern Colorado will battle in the second quarterfinal at 11:30 a.m. In the semifinals later that day, Eastern Washington will face the Montana/Weber State winner at 5:30 p.m., and host Portland State will take on the Northern Colorado/Sacramento State winner at 7:30 p.m. The winner of the two semifinal matches will play for the conference championship and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The NCAA has taken just one team from the Big Sky in 16 of the last 17 years, making the automatic berth that much more important. Sacramento State has been the only team from the Big Sky to appear in the Big Dance each of the last six years despite Eastern Washington combining for a 129-51 record over that span (including a No. 24 final ranking in the 2002 top 25 poll). Three Big Sky teams appeared in the 1999 NCAA Tournament comprised of Northern Arizona, Sacramento State and Eastern Washington.
Like all Big Sky games this year, every match of the Big Sky Tournament can be watched live and free via video stream at www.bigskytv.org. Portland State’s website (www.goviks.com) will provide live stats for each match as well.
HORNETS AT THE BIG SKY TOURNAMENT
Since joining the Big Sky Conference in 1996, Sacramento State has reached the league’s postseason event every season, and has posted a 20-3 record at the tournament. That includes a run of 12 consecutive tournament victories spanning the last six years. In fact, the team hasn’t lost a Big Sky Tournament match since falling in the 2001 championship match to Eastern Washington.
In 12 Big Sky Tournament appearances, Sacramento State has won the title nine times (1997-98, 2000, 2002-07). The team has reached the tournament’s championship match every year except 1999 (loss to Cal State Northridge in the semifinals) and the Hornets had been either the No. 1 or 2 seed every season until this year. Combined with the team’s eight regular season crowns (1997-01, 2005-07, Sacramento State has won 11 straight Big Sky regular season and/or tournament titles.
Amazingly, Sacramento State has faced Eastern Washington in the championship eight times, with the Hornets coming out on top on seven of those occasions (EWU’s lone title came in 2001). Sacramento State had faced Eastern Washington in the championship match seven consecutive years, until the Hornets defeated Portland State, 3-0, for last year’s title. Below is a year-by-year breakdown of how the Hornets have fared in Big Sky Tournament play.
2007: Semis: def. Eastern Washington (3-0), Championship: def. Portland State (3-0)
2006: Semis: def. Northern Colorado (3-0), Championship: def. Eastern Washington (3-1)
2005: Semis: def. Montana State (3-0), Championship: def. Eastern Washington (3-1)
2004: Semis: def. Montana State (3-0), Championship: def. Eastern Washington (3-1)
2003: Semis: def. Idaho State (3-0), Championship: def. Eastern Washington (3-2)
2002: Semis: def. Montana State (3-2), Championship: def. Eastern Washington (3-1)
2001: Semis: def. Montana State (3-0), Championship: lost to Eastern Washington (3-1)
2000: Semis: def. Montana State (3-2), Championship: def. Eastern Washington (3-0)
1999: Semis: lost to Cal State Northridge (3-2)
1998: Semis: def. Northern Arizona (3-0), Championship: def. Eastern Washington (3-0)
1997: Semis: def. Montana State (3-0), Championship: def. Northern Arizona (3-0)
1996: Semis: def. Montana (3-2), Championship: lost to Cal State Northridge (3-2)
BRIEF LOOK AT THE HORNETS
Sacramento State (10-22, 8-8) enters the tournament after posting one of its more impressive victories of the season last Saturday against Portland State. Against the second-place Vikings, the Hornets won in easy fashion (25-18, 25-20, 25-12), and completed a series sweep of Portland State.
The Hornets have struggled away from home this year, posting a 2-12 mark on the road and 2-5 at neutral sites. That included a 2-6 mark against Big Sky teams on the road, with the two victories coming at Montana State and Portland State.
Friday morning’s opponent, Northern Colorado, defeated the Hornets in both meetings this year, and has defeated Sacramento State on three consecutive occasions dating back to last season. That matches the longest winning streak ever posted by a Big Sky team against Sacramento State, as Cal State Northridge also won three straight in 1996. That 1996 Cal State Northridge team is also the only Big Sky squad to ever beat the Hornets three times in the same season. Sacramento State will enter the tournament with a 13-6 all-time record on Portland State’s home floor.
STREAKS & FIGURES
After losing four starters (two outsides, two middles) and the libero from last year’s team, Sacramento State will experience its first sub -.500 season since the team posted a 13-19 record during its first year of Div. I play in 1991. Many impressive streaks have fallen this year, demonstrating how good the program has been since 1976. Here are some...
- Thirteen straight years of 20 victories will come to a close.
- Sacramento State had never finished lower than second place in the Big Sky standings.
- Sacramento State will play a Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal match for the first time ever. The Hornets have received a first-round bye in the tournament every year until 2008.
- Prior to this year, the Hornets had never lost more than four conference matches in a season.
- The Hornets will post a losing record for just the third time in the last 33 years, and first time since 1991 (first year of Div. I play).
- The Hornets lost two consecutive conference matches for the first time since 1999.
- 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.
- Four home losses are the most since 1997.
- The Hornets went the entire season without a Big Sky Player of the Week for the first time ever.
- Regardless of what happens in the Big Sky Tournament, the Hornets’ record will finish as the lowest mark in school history.
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 (32 starts), and freshmen Kelsey Elston (28), Eryn Kirby (25), 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.
BIG SKY DOMINANCE
Since joining the Big Sky in 1996, Sacramento State has posted the best conference winning percentage of the league’s nine teams. The Hornets are 160-38 (.808), followed by Eastern Washington (149-49) and Northern Colorado (25-23) as the three teams with winning league records. Montana State (92-106), Northern Arizona (96-102), Weber State (83-115), Portland State (73-125), Montana (70-128) and Idaho State (61-137) round out the rest of the field.
In fact, the Hornets have won either the Big Sky’s regular season and/or tournament championships each of the last 11 years. That includes nine conference tournament crowns (1997-98, 2000, 2002-07) and eight regular season titles (1997-01, 2005-07).