FIRST PLACE SHOWDOWN AHEAD AS VOLLEYBALL PREPARES FOR BIG WEEK ON THE ROAD
Libero Breanne Menees is currently first in the Big Sky and 22nd in the nation with 5.38 digs per set
The Sacramento State volleyball team (13-10, 6-2) enters its biggest week of the season as the Hornets begin the second half of the conference season with road matches at Northern Colorado (13-8, 7-3) on Thursday at 6 p.m. PDT, and Northern Arizona (14-5, 5-5) on Saturday at 7 p.m. PDT.
Both matches can be seen live and free via online video stream at www.bigskytv.org. In addition, Saturday’s matchup against NAU will be televised live on Fox College Sports Pacific (DirecTV channel 623, Comcast channel 415). Fans wishing to listen to Saturday’s match from a Sacramento State perspective can tune in live via www.hornetsports.com as J.D. Fox will call all the action. Fox announced a number of Sacramento State volleyball matches from 2007-09.
The Hornets are currently all alone in first place in the Big Sky standings for the first time since the 2007 season, and will face a Northern Colorado squad that sits in a tie for second place with Portland State (7-3) in the league standings. The winner of Thursday’s contest will assume sole possession of the top spot in the conference.
Saturday’s match will come against a Northern Arizona team that dished out the Hornets’ lone home loss in Big Sky play this year. In fact, that loss to NAU was the Hornets’ only loss at home in the last six weeks.
Sacramento State, which has won eight of its last nine matches and sits three games above the .500 mark for the first time since 2009, has just eight matches remaining on the regular season schedule.
The top four teams in the nine-member Big Sky reach the league’s postseason tournament which will take place in Portland on Nov. 25-26. Sacramento State will attempt to qualify for the event for the first time since 2008. Prior to that season, the Hornets had won either the Big Sky’s regular season and/or tournament championship 11 straight years from 1997-07.
Trailing Sacramento State in the conference standings are Northern Colorado, Portland State, Eastern Washington (6-4), Northern Arizona (5-5), Idaho State (5-5) and Montana (5-5) to round out the top seven teams. Not only are the Hornets in first place, the team currently owns tiebreakers over the next three closest teams (Northern Colorado, Portland State and Eastern Washington) in the standings as Sacramento State swept each of those squads at home earlier this year.
Overall, the Hornets are 5-3 on the road this year, which is two more wins than all of last season (3-10). In addition, Sacramento State is 3-1 against Big Sky teams on the road after going just 1-7 against the league in 2010.
Northern Colorado has dropped two of its last three matches, including a five-set road loss to Montana on Saturday. Two of the Bears’ three conference losses have come in five sets, and the third was a three-set sweep at the hands of the Hornets in Sacramento on Sept. 24. In that match, Sacramento State won handily (25-17, 25-17, 25-16) in a contest that was never close and finished in a brisk one hour and 20 minutes. Prior to that, Northern Colorado had ownership of Sacramento State, having won eight straight matches over the Hornets dating back to 2007. In fact, that was the Hornets’ second longest active losing streak against any team (Stanford has won 10 straight against Sacramento State).
The Hornets will now attempt to snap a streak that has seen the team lose four straight to the Bears in Greeley. Sacramento State is 8-8 all-time against Northern Colorado which included the Hornets winning the first seven meetings between the two teams only to see the Bears rip off the next eight consecutive wins in the series.
Northern Arizona, which does not play until Saturday’s matchup with the Hornets, has fallen on hard times of late. After opening the season with a 12-0 record, the Lumberjacks have dropped five of their last seven matches including a shocking three-set home loss to Weber State on Oct. 15 (that remains Weber State’s lone victory of the season). NAU snapped a four-match losing streak Saturday with a four-set road win at Montana State.
Still, despite the rough patch, the Lumberjacks dealt the Hornets a 3-2 loss in Sacramento (15-7 in the fifth set) on Sept. 22. At the time, that marked Sacramento State’s sixth consecutive loss and NAU’s 12th straight win. Both teams have gone in opposite directions since that outcome. The Hornets are 29-9 all-time against NAU, including a 10-7 record when playing in Flagstaff. Sacramento State has lost two of the last three matches (2008, 2010) when playing on the Lumberjacks’ home floor.
Sacramento State at Northern Colorado
Thursday, Oct. 27, 6 p.m. PDT
Butler-Hancock Pavilion - Greeley, Colo.
Coverage: Live Stats, Live Audio, Live Video
Series Record: Tied, 8-8
Series in Greeley: Northern Colorado Leads, 4-1 (only SAC win came in 2006)
Last Meeting: W, 3-0, in Sacramento (9-24-11)
Sacramento State at Northern Arizona
Saturday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m. PDT
Rolle Activity Center - Flagstaff, Ariz.
Coverage: Live Stats, Live Audio, Live Video
Television: Fox College Sports Pacific
Series Record: Sacramento State Leads, 29-9
Series in Flagstaff: Sacramento State Leads, 10-7
Last Meeting: L, 3-2, in Sacramento (9-22-11)
BY THE NUMBERS -- One major reason for the Hornets’ 6-2 start in conference has been the team’s defensive effort. Big Sky opponents are hitting just .104 against Sacramento State, which is easily the top mark in the league. In fact, the next closest team in terms of opponents hitting percentage is Idaho State (.166). In addition, in conference play, the Hornets are first in digs by a wide margin (19.07 per set) and first in blocks (2.92) as well. Sacramento State has limited six straight conference opponents to hitting percentages of .135 or below.
SERVING TOUGH -- In conference play, Sacramento State has recorded 51 aces (compared to just 31 for the opposition), and is the top team in the league with an average of 1.70 aces per set. Janelle Currey (T-1st, 0.40), Kelsey Elston (4th, 0.37), Breanne Menees (T-7th, 0.30) and Sydney Kordic (10th, 0.27) all rank among the top 10 players in the conference in aces per set against league opposition.
DEFENSE -- Overall, Sacramento State leads the Big Sky and ranks 13th in the nation in digs per set (17.80). Defense has been a long-standing tradition at Sacramento State as the Hornets have ranked among the nation’s top 25 teams in digs per set 11 times in the last 16 years. The Hornets also moved up to 16th in the nation in blocks per set (2.73), and are now the only team in the nation to rank among the top 25 squads in both digs and blocks. Senior libero Breanne Menees’ average of 5.38 digs per set is now the 22nd best mark in the nation.
.165 IS THE MARK -- The Hornets are 12-1 when limiting the opposition to a hitting percentage below .165, and 1-9 when the opposition hits .165 or better.
MILESTONE WATCH -- On Friday against Seattle, junior outside hitter Janelle Currey joined the 1,000 kill, 1,000 dig plateau, becoming the 11th Hornet since 1985 to join the club. She now has 1,007 kills and 1,166 digs, and became one of just four players in school history to reach the plateau before her senior season (joining Jill Haas, Carissa Buie and Nicole Harty) …senior outside hitter Eryn Kirby recently surpassed the 1,000 kills mark, and now has 1,015 in her career. She became the 17th Hornet to join the 1,000 kills club since 1985, and first since Lindsay Haupt and Jennifer Ferguson both reached the mark in 2007…with six blocks against Seattle, senior middle blocker Kelsey Elston moved into the ninth spot on Sacramento State’s career top 10 list. She now has 428 career blocks, and needs 30 more blocks to surpass Tasman Dwyer (457) for No. 7 on the list…libero Breanne Menees has 1,745 career digs which is the third best mark in school history. Still reachable is the No. 2 spot which is Carissa Buie’s mark of 1,899. Menees also needs just 10 aces to move in the Hornets’ career top 10 list in that category…senior Anna Schoener is just nine assists shy of 1,000 despite learning and assuming the setter position for the first time in her life last year. She is currently 10th on Sacramento State’s career list.
JUST THE FACTS -- Outside hitter Eryn Kirby has led the Hornets in kills in a team-high 12 matches this season. That includes 12 of the team’s last 19 matches. The Hornets are 11-5 when she records at least 10 kills in a match this year…Kirby and fellow outside hitter Janelle Currey are tied for fourth in the conference with nine double-doubles (kills and digs) apiece…senior middle blocker Maddison Thivierge, who gutted out a knee injury and responded with a career-high nine blocks Friday against Seattle, is second in the Big Sky with an average of 1.11 blocks per set…the Hornets have three players ranked among the top eight in the conference in blocks per set (for all matches), including Thivierge, Kelsey Elston (4th, 1.07) and Kayla Beal (T-8th, 1.00)…Elston has hit better than .410 in five of the Hornets’ eight league matches this season, and ranks fifth in the conference with a .313 hitting percentage against Big Sky opposition…defensive specialist Sydney Kordic has at least one ace in eight straight matches, the longest stretch by a Hornet this season (both Currey and Kirby had seven-match streaks earlier this year)…libero Breanne Menees has combined for 16 aces over the team’s last six matches, including at least three aces in four of those six contests…the Hornets’ 19.0 team blocks Friday night against Seattle were a season high and tied for the 11th best mark in school history.