PORTLAND, Ore. — In a battle of the lone two unbeaten teams in the Big Sky Conference's South Division, it was all Sacramento State in a 3-0 dismantling of Portland State on the road Thursday evening at Concordia Gym.
In perhaps the most gratifying victory of the season. Sacramento State improved to 13-7 overall, 4-0 in the conference, and now sits all alone atop the Big Sky's South Division. The Hornets were playing a Portland State team that had won six straight, with each of those victories coming via three-set sweep. The match was a first place showdown as both teams had been 3-0 in league. The Vikings dropped to 12-4 overall and 3-1 in league with the loss.
Coupled with Thursday's win at Montana, the Hornets have now posted back-to-back road sweeps against Big Sky opposition for the first time since wins at Idaho State and Weber State on Sept. 28-29, 2007.
Tonight's win sets up a huge matchup on Thursday against North Dakota at home at 7 p.m. The Fighting Hawks, who are the Big Sky's defending regular season and tournament champions, are also 4-0 and sit atop the Big Sky's North Division. The winner of Thursday's match will be the lone undefeated squad in the 12-team Big Sky.
Tonight's match saw Sacramento State win its fourth straight with each of the last three matches coming in a three-set sweep. The Hornets are 4-0 in league for the second straight season, and will look to start 5-0 for the first time since 2007.
In one of the longest standing rivalries against any opponent, Sacramento State is now 43-22 all-time against Portland State, which also includes a current five-match winning streak against the Vikings. The Hornets have also won three straight in Portland.
Tonight, the Hornets hit .248 as a team with eight aces, 42 kills, 46 digs and eight team blocks. Sacramento State was very impressive at the service line, accumulating the eight aces with two service errors despite the match lasting just three sets. Of those eight aces, setter Kennedy Kurtz had three while both Shannon Boyle and Skyler Takeda had a pair.
"We won tonight's match at the service line," Sacramento State head coach Ruben Volta said. "I thought our serve really kept them off balance and threw them out of system. We also passed well and Kennedy (Kurtz) did a great job of moving the ball around and running an effective offense.
"We were ready to play tonight, and this is huge for the team's confidence. Winning sets up important matches down the road, and we have another big one Thursday night vs. North Dakota."
Sacramento State closed both the first and second sets on 7-2 runs to break open close frames, and used a 9-4 run midway through the third set to take control.
Kurtz was tremendous, finishing with 37 assists, three aces, 10 digs and four blocks. Boyle had 12 kills, nine digs and a .300 hitting percentage and rightside hitter Sarah Davis continued her big week as the sophomore had nine kills and a .350 hitting percentage. For the week, which includes the win at Montana, Davis averaged 3.00 kills per set and hit .444.
Outside hitter Mikaela Nocetti added nine kills and eight digs, middle blocker Brie Gathright had six kills and a .match-high .545 hitting percentage, and middle Lana Brown had five kills and a match-best five blocks. Libero Brigitte Murdock tied Kurtz for the team lead in digs with 10, and Takeda had five digs to go along with the two aces.
Portland State hit .250 or less in all three sets, and finished with a .200 hitting percentage. The Vikings also had just two aces and eight reception errors. PSU had one player (with more than one kill) hit better than .250, and that was Parker Webb who finished with eight kills and a .304 hitting percentage.
Thursday's contest against North Dakota begins a season-long four-match homestead that will see the Hornets also take on Northern Colorado (Oct. 7), Southern Utah (Oct. 12) and Northern Arizona (Oct. 14).