Big Sky Conference standings
CHENEY, Wash. -- After trailing, 6-3, in the fifth and decisive set, Sacramento State closed the match on a 12-5 run to eventually defeat Eastern Washington, 3-2 (24-26, 25-20, 25-21, 28-30, 15-11), in a Big Sky Conference volleyball match Saturday afternoon at Reese Court.
With the victory, Sacramento State (19-7, 10-0) continues its perfect conference season, sits atop the Big Sky's South Division and remains at least two games better than any of the league's other 11 teams. In addition, the Hornets continue to improve upon program-record best start in Big Sky play. Prior to this season's 10-0 mark in league, the previous best Big Sky record for the Hornets was 8-0, set by the 2007 squad.
With just six matches to play in the regular season, the Hornets are now at the midway point of their four-game road trip which began on Thursday with a win at Idaho. Sacramento State continues to have the inside track at hosting this year's Big Sky Tournament on Nov. 16-18. The regular season champion hosts the tournament, and the winner of the event receives an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. In fact, despite six matches still to play, today's win allowed the Hornets to become the first team in the 12-member league to qualify for the eight-team Big Sky Tournament.
The Hornets have now won 10 straight, and 16 of the last 18 matches. The 10-game winning streak is the second longest for the program in 10 years as the 2015 team won 12 straight. The Div. I era (1991-pres.) record for longest winning streak is 16 straight, set during both the 2005 and 1995 seasons.
Dating back to last year, Sacramento State has won a massive 18 consecutive regular season matches against Big Sky opposition. The Hornets won eight straight last year to close the regular season.
Even the road has been friendly as the Hornets have now won seven straight matches when playing on an opponent's home floor this season. That includes a 4-0 record on the road against Big Sky teams. The seven-game road winning streak is the longest since the 2005 team won its final seven road matches of the season.
Today's game wasn't easy against an Eastern Washington squad that dropped to 6-13 overall and 3-7 in the Big Sky. During the fifth and final set, the Eagles jumped out to a 6-3 lead but the Hornets battled back with the help of an offensive attack that finished with nine kills and a .450 hitting percentage in the decisive frame. Trailing, 6-3, the Hornets ran off five straight points via EWU service error, two straight blocks from Brie Gathright, a Mikaela Nocetti kill and an Eagle attack error. Sacramento State would not trail the rest of the way as Nocetti finished the frame with four kills and a .500 hitting percentage while fellow outside hitter Shannon Boyle had three kills and a .500 hitting percentage.
The fifth set was an impressive bounce back for a Sacramento State team that let three match points in the fourth set slip away.
The Hornets finished with 68 kills, five aces, 105 digs and seven team blocks. The 105 digs were the second highest output of the season as four different Hornets posted at least 15 digs.
Nocetti notched a career-high 23 kills to go along with 17 digs. The 23 kills were a match high and surpassed her previous career best of 21 kills. Boyle posted 10 kills and 32 digs, the second time in three weeks the six-rotation outside hitter has suppressed 30 digs. A fourth-year senior, Boyle now has 962 career kills and 956 digs as she attempts to become just the 12th Hornet in the last 30 years to notch 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs.
While Boyle inched closer to a milestone, senior setter Kennedy Kurtz (5,034) became just the fifth setter in the history of the Big Sky Conference to notch 5,000 assists. She finished with 57 assists and 15 digs tonight, and needs just 166 assists to move into second place in conference history in career assists.
Gathright finished with a career-high 14 kills to go along with five blocks and a .429 hitting percentage while fellow middle Lana Brown had 10 kills and a .304 hitting percentage. Rightside hitter Sarah Davis added seven kills and a .333 hitting percentage, and libero Brigitte Murdock had 21 digs. It marked the 11th time this season Murdock has posted at least 20 digs. Hannah Meadows added eight digs.
Eastern Washington held statistical advantages over the Hornets in kills (80-68), assists (80-67) and digs (117-105), but the Hornets were able to pull out the win. Four EWU players had at least 20 digs.
Sacramento State concludes its four-game road trip next week against Northern Arizona on Thursday and Southern Utah on Saturday.
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