SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento State sophomore Sloan Lovett had a match-high 17 kills, including the game clincher at 14-13 in the fifth set, as the Hornets defeated Northern Colorado, 3-2 (25-14, 16-25, 21-25, 25-22, 15-13) in a Big Sky Conference volleyball matchup Thursday evening at Colberg Court.
The Hornets, who overcame a 20-17 deficit in the fourth set and a 7-5 deficit in the fifth, won their third straight match to improve to 8-8 overall and 3-2 in the Big Sky. Sacramento State has now won five straight matches against conference competition at home dating back to last year. The team is also 115-21 against conference teams at Colberg Court since joining the Big Sky in 1996.
The loss dropped Northern Colorado to 5-10 overall and 1-4 in the Big Sky. The Bears, who are the defending Big Sky Tournament champions and NCAA Tournament participant, had won 11 of the last 12 meetings between the two teams prior to tonight.
After the Hornets won the first set in quick fashion, Northern Colorado won the next two frames and seemed to be heading for a victory after taking a 20-17 lead in the fourth. However, the Hornets closed the set on an 8-2 run, highlighted by a combo block from Kayla Beal and Courtney Dietrich after a long rally at 20-18.
In the fifth, the Hornets were down, 5-2, and later, 7-5, before going on a 3-0 run to take an 8-7 lead. Both teams went back and forth the rest of the way as the score was tied at 8-8, 10-10, 11-11, 12-12, and 13-13. A kill from freshman Morgan Stanley gave the Hornets a 14-13 lead, and Lovett followed by crushing a ball down the line for an emphatic kill and a Sacramento State victory.
Northern Colorado hit .438 in the fifth set, but the Hornets were nearly as proficient, hitting .368 while both Lovett and Stanley led the way with three kills. Dietrich added a pair of kills and Beal and setter Hannah Hettinga each had one kill.
"I told the team that tonight's match would come down to effort," Sacramento State head coach Ruben Volta said. "Our effort level in the fourth and fifth sets really showed, and we started playing a better brand of volleyball."
Sacramento State hit .304 as a team, marking the third consecutive match the team has gone over the .300 mark. Hornet middle hitters Chelcy Motes, Kendall LaVine and Dietrich combined to hit .448 (15-2-28). Motes finished with eight kills, a .571 hitting percentage and match-best six blocks while Dietrich had six kills, four blocks and a .308 hitting percentage.
"Our middles did a very nice job offensively, and when they weren't blocking balls, they were deflecting balls at the net allowing us to stay in the point."
Lovett, who is now third in the Big Sky in kills, led all players with 17 kills while hitting .333 and accumulating eight digs. She was joined in double figures by Stanley (13 kills, nine digs) and Beal (10 kills, four blocks). Setter Hannah Hettinga, who had a number of big plays in the fourth and fifth sets for the Hornets, finished with 48 assists, six digs, four blocks, two kills and a .667 hitting percentage.
Sacramento State had a season-high tying 12 aces, including three each from Stanley, Beal and Lexie Skalbeck. The Hornets also posted 11.0 team blocks (one shy of a season high), and had just six service errors to go with the 12 aces. Libero Katie Aprile paced the team with 13 digs.
The Bears hit .329 and held healthy advantages over the Hornets in kills (65-57), assists (63-51) and digs (55-44), but had 14 service errors and were stuff blocked on five occasions over the final two frames. Four Northern Colorado players had double figures in kills, led by Alyssa Wilson's 15. Three different Bear starters hit better than .410 in the match.
Sacramento State concludes its four-match homestand on Saturday for a 1 p.m. matinee against North Dakota.