Big Sky Conference standings
SACRAMENTO -- Senior Shannon Boyle led all players with 21 kills and 17 digs and Sacramento State hit .307 on the way to a 3-1 victory (27-25, 25-15, 23-25, 25-22) over Montana State on Thursday evening at the Nest.
With the victory, Sacramento State (21-8, 12-1) is now one win shy of clinching the program's first Big Sky Conference regular season championship since the 2007 season. The Hornets' magic number is down to one, and there are still three matches to play in the regular season. Tonight's win allows Sacramento State the opportunity to clinch on its home court against Portland State on Saturday at 1 p.m. Saturday will also be Senior Day as six Hornet seniors will be honored prior to the match for their contributions to the program. Sacramento State completes the regular season next week with a pair of games on the road.
Should the Hornets win the regular season title on Saturday or next week, they will host the Big Sky's eight-team postseason tournament Nov. 16-18. Sacramento State has not hosted the Big Sky Tournament since the 2007 season. The winner of the Big Sky's postseason event receives an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, a place the Hornets haven't been since 2007.
Sacramento State's 12-1 conference record is tied for the team's best mark after 13 games as the 1998, 2005 and 2006 squads also accomplished the feat. In addition, the Hornets have won 23 straight games at home against Big Sky opposition, and haven't lost at home to a conference team since 2014. Overall, dating back to last season, Sacramento State has now won 20 of its last 21 matches against conference competition.
The Hornets continued their dominance of Montana State, improving the all-time record against the Bobcats to 44-6, and 24-1 at home. That includes a streak of 22 straight victories over Montana State inside the Nest.
The Bobcats, who were coming off a 3-2 road win at North Dakota on Saturday, dropped to 8-14 overall and 4-9 in the Big Sky.
Sacramento State, which was hitting .449 with just three errors through two sets, finished the match with a .307 hitting percentage. All six Hornet starters had at least five kills and five of them hit better than .290. Still, Montana State didn't make things easy as Sacramento State was locked in three close sets during the match.
In the first set, Sacramento State saved a set point at 23-24 on a kill from Boyle. With the score tied at 25-25, the Hornets got a kill from Lana Brown and a Brigitte Murdock service ace to finally win. Sacramento State trailed, 18-13, in the set before closing on a 14-7 run to win, 27-25.
After the two teams split the next two sets to give Sacramento State a 2-1 lead, the Hornets held a 22-21 lead in the fourth set. However, Brie Gathright had a kill followed by a block to make things, 24-21. After MSU got a kill from Kiana Black to inch within, 24-22, Mikaela Nocetti ended things with a kill.
Sacramento State finished with 66 kills, 58 assists, three aces, 72 digs and 12.0 team blocks. The 12 blocks were tied for the Hornets' fourth best mark of the season. The two teams combined for five aces and 19 service errors (MSU 2 aces, 9 errors; SAC 3 aces, 10 errors). The Hornets finished with seven more kills than the Bobcats.
Boyle recorded at least 20 kills for the third consecutive match as the senior had 21 kills with just four errors in 53 attacks. In addition, the six-rotation outside hitter became just the 12th Hornet in the last 30 years (and first since 2012) to record 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs. She now has 1,026 kills and 1,004 digs.
Nocetti (15 kills, 12 digs) and setter Kennedy Kurtz (54 assists, 11 digs) also had double-doubles for the Hornets. Kurtz, once again, stuffed the stat sheet as the fourth-year senior also five kills, a .667 hitting percentage and six blocks. Three of those blocks for Kurtz came late in the first set when she helped spark the Hornets' comeback from an 18-13 deficit.
Brown had 12 kills, six blocks and a .455 hitting percentage, and fellow middle Gathright also had a big night with seven kills, four blocks and a .353 hitting percentage. Rightside hitter Sarah Davis had six kills, three blocks and a .294 hitting percentage. The Hornet starters Kurtz, Nocetti, Brown, Davis, Boyle and Gathright combined for all 66 of the team's kills. Murdock had 14 digs and defensive specialist Hannah Meadows added eight digs.
Five Montana State players posted double figures in kills, including Black who was nearly unstoppable. The senior middle blocker had 14 kills and a match-high .632 hitting percentage. That included just two errors in 19 swings.
On Saturday, Sacramento State seek its third straight season of an 8-0 record against Big Sky teams at home. The Hornets will play Portland State at 1 p.m. The Vikings (10-3), who beat Montana at home tonight, are currently just two games behind Sacramento State in the Big Sky's South Division. Seniors Kurtz, Boyle, Murdock, Meadows, Julia Wright and Erin Cochran will be honored prior to Saturday's game.
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