CEDAR CITY, Utah -- In the first match of the Big Sky Conference season, Sacramento State squandered three match points in the fourth set on the way to a five-set loss at Southern Utah, 23-25, 21-25, 25-18, 32-30, 15-13, Thursday evening at Centrum Arena.
The loss spoiled a career night from junior outside hitter and team captain Sloan Lovett who posted career highs in kills (27) and attacks (70) while hitting .257 with 12 digs, two aces and five blocks. What made the performance even more impressive is Lovett is still recovering from an ankle injury that forced her to miss two matches last week. After posting just two kills in the first set, she had nine in the second set, five in the third, eight more in the fourth, and three in the final frame.
Leading in sets, 2-1, Sacramento State stormed all the way back from a 20-13 deficit in the fourth set to eventually tie things at 23-23, and take a 24-23 lead after a Madeline Cannon kill. However, a Hornet service error squandered that match point, and kills from the Thunderbirds' Remo Gaogao and Madi Forsythe, respectively, thwarted Sacramento State match points at 26-25 and 28-27.
In the fifth set, Sacramento State had more kills (9-7) than Southern Utah, but the service line was a major issue as the Hornets committed two service errors and were aced late in the frame. In fact, it was a Thunderbird ace that put SUU up 14-11, before Sacramento State scored the next two points to draw within, 14-13. That's when Forsythe recorded her team-best 18th kill to give the T-Birds the set and match.
Sacramento State dropped to 5-11 overall and 0-1 in the Big Sky with the loss. In addition, the Hornets' three-match winning streak over the Thunderbirds dating back to 2012 came to a close. Southern Utah improved to 8-4 and 1-0 in the conference with the victory.
Lovett accounted for over 40 percent of the team's offense, producing 27 of the team's 65 kills. In addition, Lovett accounted for 31.5 points by herself. Cannon added 12 kills, nine digs, four blocks, 15.0 points and a .286 hitting percentage. The digs were easily a season high and the 12 kills were two shy of a season best. Four of those kills came in a highly productive fifth set for Cannon where she also hit .500 with one error in six attempts. Lovett and Cannon were the only Hornets with more than six kills. The double-double for Lovett (27 kills, 12 digs) was her first of the season.
Sacramento State broke triple figures in digs as the team finished with a season-high 101, and four Hornets finished with at least 12 digs. That included freshman Brigitte Murdock (season-high 24), freshman setter Kennedy Kurtz (season-high 19) and sophomore Lexie Skalbeck (13). Kurtz also had 57 assists. Sophomore middle blocker Kendall LaVine added five kills, five blocks and a .400 hitting percentage, and sophomore Courtney Dietrich had five kills and three blocks.
The Hornets hit just .135 but had two more kills than Southern Utah (65-63). Sacramento State limited the Thunderbirds to a .174 hitting percentage, but Southern Utah dominated at the next, finishing with a large advantage in team blocks (20.0-9.0). Eleven of those blocks came from Annie Stradling. In fact, Stradling (10 kills, 11 blocks) finished with a double-double, and Katie Elgan (11 kills, nine blocks) nearly accomplished the feat. Four Southern Utah players had at least seven blocks and Sariah Pedaez had a match-high 33 digs.
Sacramento State returns for its second match of the conference season in two days when the team travels to Flagstaff to take on Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks defeated Portland State by a 3-1 score tonight in their first conference match of the season.
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