CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sacramento State sophomore middle blocker Madeline Cannon had seven kills and a match-high .538 hitting percentage, but it was not enough as the Hornets lost their season opener to UNCG, 3-0 (33-31, 25-14, 25-18), in the first round of the Charlotte Volleyball Invitational.
The two-day, five-team tournament also features Morgan State, ETSU and host Charlotte. Sacramento State will play later today at 2 p.m. PDT against ETSU, and again tomorrow vs Morgan State (6:30 a.m. PDT) and Charlotte (4 p.m. PDT).
The Hornets, who enter the season with a school-record eight freshmen and no seniors, had trouble passing and running a crisp offense. In fact, Sacramento State hit just .116, including .024 in the second frame. The Hornets started one junior, three sophomores and two freshmen, as well as a freshman libero. The three freshmen starters tied for the most in a match during the program's Div. I era.
Despite the final score, the Hornets had their chances, especially in a grinder of a first set that saw neither lead by more than five points the entire way. In fact, it was Sacramento State that erased a 21-16 and 24-22 deficit to eventually tie the score at 24-24. The Hornets had set points at 26-25, 28-27 and 31-30 but could not convert any of those chances. UNCG had six set points thwarted before a Julia Westerbur kill closed out a 3-0 run and capped the 33-31 victory.
The Spartans never trailed in the second set, and used a 13-5 run to close out what had been a tight third frame. Only five UNCG players had kills in the match, but that fivesome combined for all of the team's 45 kills. That included Kelsey Sidney's 13 kills and .370 hitting percentage while Jessica Brezwyn had 12 kills.
For Sacramento State, Cannon, who is a transfer from Santa Clara, was a bright spot, finishing with seven kills and no errors in 13 attacks. She was the only Hornet to hit better than .263. Freshman Shannon Boyle made the first start of her career (at any level) on the right side and responded with seven kills, four digs and a .263 hitting percentage. Sophomore middle blocker Courtney Dietrich had six kills, a .263 hitting percentage and match-high five blocks.
Outside hitter and team captain Sloan Lovett added eight kills and team-best 15 digs, freshman setter Kennedy Kurtz finished with 26 assists and 12 digs, and Lexie Skalbeck had 10 digs. Freshman Brigitte Murdock got the start at libero and had seven digs before Skalbeck was brought into the match at libero in the third set.
In all, 11 Sacramento State players appeared in the match, nine of which were underclassmen.
UNCG had large advantages over the Hornets in kills (45-34), hitting percentage (.236-.116) and digs (64-56). Sacramento State had seven team blocks compared to the Spartans' two blocks.