VOLLEYBALL REMAINS PERFECT AT HOME IN CONFERENCE PLAY AFTER SQUEAKING BY NAU
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Four Hornets recorded double figures in kills, led by freshman Kayla Beal’s team-high 14, as Sacramento State squeaked by Northern Arizona, 3-2 (22-25, 25-12, 25-17, 16-25, 15-13), in a Big Sky Conference volleyball match Friday evening at Colberg Court.
In the fifth and final set, Sacramento State trailed, 9-7, before going on a 7-2 run to take a commanding 14-11 lead. During the run, the Hornets put up a big block, combining for a pair of combo blocks and forcing NAU into some awkward attacks that sailed long or wide. The Lumberjacks, however, ran off consecutive points to pull within, 14-13, but a kill from Hornet junior Eryn Kirby ended the set and match.
The win was big for Sacramento State (12-12, 5-4) as it allowed the team to remain in a tie for fourth place in the league standings with Idaho State (5-4). The top four teams in the nine-member Big Sky qualify for the league’s postseason event, and only seven conference matches remain on the schedule. Sacramento State and Idaho State were able to distance themselves from Montana State, Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington who are now all 3-6. Northern Colorado remains in first place with a 7-1 record, followed by Portland State (7-2) and Montana (6-3).
The Hornets have now won eight straight home contests, are 5-0 at home against conference teams, and improved to 6-3 in five-set matches. The team hasn’t lost at home since Sept. 4, and is now 8-2 inside the friendly confines this year. In addition, the Hornets improved to 17-0 all-time against Northern Arizona at home, and 29-8 overall in a series which dates back to 1991.
With the loss, NAU dropped to 7-12 overall, and 1-7 on the road.
“We didn’t play this match at our tempo, but were able to pull out the win,” Sacramento State head coach Ruben Volta said. “Northern Arizona has players that attack the ball well, but our defense was able to come up with some huge digs and blocks. We really had to fight through some of the games when NAU was playing well, and this was a big win for our team.”
Joining Beal with double-figure kills for Sacramento State were junior Kelsey Elston (11 kills, three blocks and a match-high .476 hitting percentage), sophomore Janelle Currey (10 kills, match-best 24 digs) and Kirby (10 kills, nine digs). Beal’s 14 kills came with two blocks and a .290 hitting percentage.
Elston came up particularly large in the fifth set as she had three kills in four attacks and added a block. Kirby also had three kills and Currey added a pair of kills and six digs in the final set. Sacramento State hit .210 for the match, including .318 in the fourth set and .250 in the fifth. Northern Arizona was limited to just a .109 hitting percentage for the match and only two Lumberjack players hit better than .200.
Defensively, six different Sacramento State players had at least two blocks, and three had at least 19 digs. Junior setter Anna Schoener and sophomore middle hitter Olivia Moss each posted a match-best five blocks. Schoener also added five kills, a .333 hitting percentage and 24 assists. Currey’s 24 digs were her second best output of the season, while junior Breanne Menees (21) and sophomore Sydney Kordic (19) also finished with large dig totals. Freshman middle Ashley Newcomb chipped in three kills, two blocks and a .429 hitting percentage (3-0-7).
For Northern Arizona, Lexi Sullivan (18), Niki Small (10), Chelsea Cheeley (9) and Kobi Christensen (8) combined for all but eight of the Lumberjacks’ 53 kills.
Sacramento State returns to action tomorrow night when the team welcomes first-place Northern Colorado to Colberg Court for a match that will begin at 7 p.m. The Hornets will try and snap a slide that has seen the team lose seven straight to the Bears dating back to 2007.