PHILADELPHIA -- Senior Kayla Beal had a double-double (10 kills, 10 digs), sophomore Sloan Lovett added a match-high 11 kills and freshman Lexie Skalbeck posted match highs in aces (3) and digs (21) to help Sacramento State to a three-set sweep, 25-15, 25-16, 25-20, of Fairleigh Dickinson in the fourth and final round of the La Salle Volleyball Invitational Sunday afternoon at Tom Gola Arena.
With this afternoon's win, Sacramento State completes the season-opening tournament with a perfect 4-0 record and is crowned La Salle Invitational champions. In fact, the Hornets' 4-0 record is the program's best mark since the 1995 squad accomplished the feat. That 1995 team went on to post a 35-4 record.
Sacramento State played four matches over two days, including an 8 a.m. PDT start on Saturday against Bucknell, and a 6 a.m. PDT start this morning against tournament host La Salle. The Hornets knocked off Bucknell (3-2), Lafayette (3-0), La Salle (3-1) and Fairleigh Dickinson (3-0) in succession.
"I thought we played well all tournament, and really turned it up a notch defensively in this afternoon's match," Sacramento State head coach Ruben Volta said. "The team just kept getting better and better as the tournament progressed, and I was pleased with every area of our game except serving (46 service errors in four matches)."
The La Salle Invitational's all-tournament team is made up of just one player from each team, and the Hornets' all-tournament selection was Lovett, who was dominant all weekend. The Durango, Colo., native posted double figures in kills in all four matches, led the team in kills in each of the last three matches, and averaged 4.07 kills and 2.43 digs per set while hitting .318. She added a team-high five aces as well.
"Sloan has improved a ton since last year, and she played great all weekend," Volta said. "She is attacking aggressively, and I'm very excited about watching her continue to progress the rest of the year."
Lovett wasn't the only player that excelled in the tournament. Beal averaged 3.47 kills per set with a .284 hitting percentage, freshman Morgan Stanley averaged 3.15 kills per set with a .318 hitting percentage, and both senior Katie Aprile (4.08 dps) and Skalbeck (3.08 dps) averaged better than three digs per set during the tournament. Setter Hannah Hettinga averaged a robust 12.20 assists per set, and each of the three middles (Chelcy Motes, Courtney Dietrich and Kendall LaVine) hit at least .320 during the tournament.
One of the more encouraging aspects of the tournament was the play of Sacramento State freshmen Stanley, Dietrich, Skalbeck and LaVine. All four players received plenty of time on the floor, as Stanley started all four matches and is a six-rotation outside hitter, Dietrich (3) and LaVine (1) both started matches at middle blocker, and Skalbeck posted 21 digs today in her first start of the season at libero.
"Between Morgan, Courtney, Lexie and Kendall, I thought all four freshmen played well," Volta said. "Morgan has such a nice demeanor and nothing rattles her on the floor. She is a smart player and understands the game of volleyball. Both our freshmen middles (Courtney and Kendall) attacked well, and continue to improve while getting adjusted to a blocking system that is new to them. Obviously, Lexie was really good defensively, dug a lot of tough balls, and did a nice job reading the court."
In this afternoon's win over Fairleigh Dickinson (0-4), the Hornets never trailed during the first two sets, and used a 9-0 run in the third frame to turn an 11-6 deficit into a 15-11 lead. Skalbeck served eight of those points, including three aces during the run.
The Hornets hit .298 as a team, and have now hit at least that high of a percentage in three straight matches. Sacramento State had 19 more kills (49-30) and seven more aces (7-0) than the Knights in a match that lasted just one hour and 11 minutes.
The Hornets return to action next week when they host the 11th-annual Sacramento State Invitational at Colberg Court. The two-day, four-team tournament, which takes place Friday and Saturday, Sept. 6-7, will feature six matches. Each team will play three times, as the Hornets play Friday against San Jose State, and Saturday vs. both Central Connecticut and Cal Poly. For complete tournament information, including schedule and ticket prices, please click here.