VOLLEYBALL BEATS SOUTHERN UTAH ON THE ROAD; NOW 2 WINS SHY OF BIG SKY REGULAR SEASON TITLE

VOLLEYBALL BEATS SOUTHERN UTAH ON THE ROAD; NOW 2 WINS SHY OF BIG SKY REGULAR SEASON TITLE

Big Sky Conference standings

CEDAR CITY, Utah — Sacramento State received 23 kills and 11 digs from senior Shannon Boyle, and the Hornets limited Southern Utah to a .170 hitting percentage on the way to a 3-1 road victory (17-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-20) over the Thunderbirds on Saturday evening.

Not only did Boyle have 10 more kills than any other player on the floor, the fourth-year senior outside hitter surpassed the 1,000 kill milestone. She now 1,005 career kills and is just 13 digs shy of joining the 1,000 kills/1,000 digs club.

The win allowed the Hornets to secure their third straight 20-win season while improving to 20-8 overall and 11-1 in the Big Sky. More importantly, the Hornets got some help tonight when North Dakota (9-3) and Portland State (9-3) both lost. With just four matches remaining in the regular season, Sacramento State's magic number is down to two and the team would clinch the Big Sky's regular season championship with two home wins next week.

The Hornets play their final home matches of the regular season against Montana State on Thursday at 7 p.m. and Portland State on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Hornets have won 22 straight home matches against Big Sky opposition, a streak which dates back to Sept. 24, 2015. If Sacramento State wins those matches, the Hornets would clinch their first regular season title since 2007 and host the Big Sky Tournament on Nov. 16-18. The winner of the Big Sky's postseason event will get an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

The Hornets' 11-1 conference record ties the team's best mark after 12 league games since joining the Big Sky in 1996. It was also a nice bounce back after a grueling five-set loss at Northern Arizona (16-14 in the 5th) on Thursday night. The win also allowed the Hornets to sweep the season series against Southern Utah, which included a three-set win over the Thunderbirds on Oct. 12. Tonight's loss dropped Southern Utah to 6-18 overall and 1-11 in league play.

The Hornets had 18 more kills than Southern Utah (61-43) and five more aces (6-1) while limiting the Thunderbirds to just a .170 hitting percentage. Sacramento State had at least 14 kills in all four sets while also finishing the match with 73 digs.

Boyle's 23 kills and 11 digs accompanied a a .263 hitting percentage and two aces. It also marked the second straight match, and third time this season the outside hitter has accumulated 20-plus kills. She was joined in double-figure kills by outside hitter Mikaela Nocetti (12 kills, 12 digs, three aces) and rightside hitter Sarah Davis (10 kills, five blocks, .400 hitting percentage). The 10 kills for Davis were one shy of her career high and she has has now hit better than .315 in six consecutive matches.

Setter Kenney Kurtz had another stat sheet stuffing line of five kills, a .625 hitting percentage, 52 assists, one ace, 11 digs and two blocks. Middle blocker Lana Brown had five kills and five blocks and fellow middle Cianna Andrews posted six kills and a career-high three blocks. Libero Brigitte Murdock had a match-high 25 digs and Skyler Takeda added six digs.

For Southern Utah, MaCail Evans led the way with 11 kills, four blocks and a .360 hitting percentage. Janet Kalaniuvalu had a team-high 13 kills, but was limited to a .128 hitting percentage.