VOLLEYBALL PLAYS TWO ON THE ROAD THIS WEEK
Preview Of The Week Ahead
At the halfway point of the Big Sky Conference season, the Sacramento State volleyball squad (13-10, 4-4) travels to Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado this week for two of the team’s final four regular season matches away from home. The Hornets begin the week by traveling to Northern Arizona (Thursday, Oct. 22, 7 p.m.) followed by a match at Northern Colorado two days later on Saturday, Oct. 24, at 6 p.m. PDT. Thursday's match against Northern Arizona will be televised live on the Universityhouse channel, which can be accessed by Dish Network subcribers on channel 9411.
Sacramento State enters the week in fifth place in the conference standings, one game behind fourth-place Montana (5-3) and two games back of Portland State, Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado, who are all tied atop the league standings with 6-2 records. The top four teams in the conference reach the Big Sky Tournament (Nov. 27-28), and every match the rest of the way will be important for the Hornets. Especially when you consider that the league’s fourth place team (Montana) currently holds the tiebreaker by virtue of its three-set sweep of Sacramento State last week. The Hornets have reached the Big Sky’s postseason event every year since joining the league in 1996.
Northern Arizona enters the week with a 6-11 overall record, a 3-5 Big Sky mark, and are in a three-way tie for sixth place in the conference. The Hornets beat the Lumberjacks in Sacramento earlier this season in four sets, and have won 10 of the last 11 meetings between the two teams. However, that one loss during the stretch came last year (3-0) in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Northern Colorado is currently 12-9 overall and 6-2 in the Big Sky, having dropped two of its last three matches. The Bears swept the Hornets earlier this season in Sacramento, and have now won five straight over Sacramento State dating back to 2007. That is the longest stretch of wins over the Hornets by any Big Sky opponent since they joined the league in 1996.
After beginning last week with a convincing win over Montana State on Friday, the Hornets were primed to play arguably their biggest match of the season Saturday night against Montana. The two teams entered Saturday tied for fourth place with identical conference records, but it was the Grizzlies who controlled the match throughout, completing a three-set sweep of Sacramento State. The loss marked just the third time the Hornets have been swept at home by a conference opponent in the last 14 years.
Free Video Stream, Stats and Audio
Like every match against a Big Sky opponent (home or away) this season, free video stream will be offered via www.bigskytv.org for Thursday and Saturday night’s matches. In addition, live stats can be found Thursday via www.nauathletics.com, and Saturday via www.uncbears.com.
Still Playing Well
Despite the Hornets falling on Saturday to Montana, the team has still won four of its last five, eight of 12, and 11 of their last 16 matches dating back to Sept. 12. In fact, the team opened the year 2-5 before turning things around to enter this week with a 13-10 overall mark. Even more impressive is Sacramento State is 7-4 away from home this season, including a 4-3 mark when playing on the home floor of the opponent. That includes a pair of road victories two weeks ago against conference foes Idaho State (3-0) and Weber State (3-1).
Amazingly, freshman outside hitter Janelle Currey has committed just one attack error in 98 swings over her last three matches. What makes that stretch even more impressive is Currey is a full-rotation outside hitter, easily the toughest position to put together a stretch of errorless attempts. She had 11 kills without an error in 46 attacks last Tuesday in a five-set win at San Jose State, and followed that effort with six kills and one error in 20 attacks Friday against Montana State. Perhaps her most impressive performance of the week came against Montana where she hit .312 with 10 kills and no errors in 32 attacks. Despite being a true freshman, Currey has established herself as one of the top outside hitters in the conference, ranking among the league’s top nine players in double-doubles (T-1st with 14), points (6th, 3.64), kills (9th, 3.14) and digs (9th, 3.34).
Making Big Strides
In Ruben Volta’s first season as head coach in 2008, he guided the Hornets through a major rebuilding phase that saw the squad lose both starting outside hitters, both starting middle hitters and the starting libero from the previous year. That 2008 squad struggled to a 10-23 overall record. The team has made major strides in 2009, and it has already posted three more victories (13-10) than all of last season. The Hornets have vastly improved in nearly every statistical category and have three winning streaks of at least three matches long after winning more than two in a row just once all of last year.
Serving Tough And Defense
Two of Sacramento State’s biggest strengths this year have been serving tough and playing good defense. The Hornets are currently first in the Big Sky in digs (17.14 per set) and service aces (1.68 per set), marks which rank the team 17th and 31st in the nation in those two categories, respectively. Sacramento State already has 153 aces this year, which are 42 more than the next closest Big Sky team (Weber State with 111). In addition, the Hornets have limited the opposition this year to a .177 hitting percentage, which ties Portland State for the best mark in the conference.
Senior Desiree Hoyum, who was named the Big Sky’s co-Player of the Week on Oct. 12, ranks among the conference’s top six players in four categories, including tied for first in double-doubles (14), second in kills (3.56 per set), third in points (4.04 per set) and sixth in digs (3.77 per set). She has led the team in kills in 12 matches, and has tallied double figures in kills in 15 contests this season. In addition, she has at least eight digs in every match and has failed to get double figures in that category just twice all year.
After another strong week, junior middle Maddison Thivierge moved up to fourth in the Big Sky with a .317 hitting percentage. She is also hitting .329 against conference opposition (4th)...Melissa Melcher, Janelle Currey and Sydney Kordic are all tied for sixth in the Big Sky with 0.31 aces per set.