SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Fresh off a 26-win season and a Big Sky Conference regular season championship, the Sacramento State volleyball program, equipped with 10 returners and four starters, will be back on the court for its first official practice on Wednesday, Aug. 8.
Eleventh-year head coach Ruben Volta will hold practices twice a day on most days beginning on Wednesday, and running through Aug. 23. The team's final preseason practice will take place on Aug. 23 in preparation for the season opener on Aug. 24. In fact, the Hornets will not play anywhere but Colberg Court for nearly the entire month as the team hosts the four-team Hornet Invitational on Aug. 24-25. Sacramento State will host Utah State and CSUN on the 24th, followed by Arizona on the 25th.
Last season, Sacramento State finished with a 26-10 overall record, a 15-1 mark in the Big Sky, and the program's first regular season conference crown since 2007. The Hornets, who had three winning streaks of at least six matches long, lost in the Big Sky Tournament championship game in five sets before qualifying for the National Invitational Volleyball Championship postseason tournament.
The Hornets have won at least 20 matches three consecutive years, and have combined for a 72-29 overall record and 40-8 league mark over that span. The team has won 24 straight regular season home matches against Big Sky opposition, going 8-0 each of the last three years inside the Nest.
Among this year's returners are starters at outside hitter (senior Mikaela Nocetti), rightside hitter (junior Sarah Davis) and middle blocker (seniors Lana Brown and Brie Gathright). Nocetti was a first team all-conference selection a year ago while Brown was named to the second team. Also returning are outside hitter Macey Hayden, middle blocker Cianna Andrews and defensive specialist Skyler Takeda. Three players that redshirted last season (Paige Swinney, Ashtin Olin, Sarah Falk) also return.
Olin and Falk are two of seven freshmen on this year's roster. The five true freshmen are Paige Calvin, Hannah Chase, McKenna Smith, Kayla Subbert and Claudia Wilson.
Sacramento State will have to compensate for the losses of six seniors, including Big Sky MVP Kennedy Kurtz, who led the nation in assists a year ago. Also gone are outside hitter Shannon Boyle who was a first team all-league choice, and Brigitte Murdock who started every match at libero and finished 13th in the nation in digs.
The Hornets' roster features 15 players, comprised of four seniors, one junior, three sophomores and seven freshmen. The roster breaks down to eight players that could see time at outside hitter, five middle blockers, two setters and three defensive specialists.
• Sacramento State welcomes back assistant coach Sarah Chlebana, who has spent 11 years on the Sacramento State campus as either a player or a coach. Chlebana was an assistant coach for the Hornets from 2008-14, before spending the previous three seasons at Fresno State (2015-17). Chlebana was a four-year starter at Sacramento State from 1997-00 where she helped the team win four straight Big Sky Conference championships.
• Sacramento State will host a pair of regular season tournaments this season, including the Hornet Invitational Aug. 24-25, and the Sacramento State Invitational Sept. 7-8. The Hornet Invite features Arizona, Cal State Northridge and Utah State, and the Sacramento State Invite features Nevada, Seattle and UC Riverside.
• The program is just seven wins shy of 1,000 victories. Since volleyball became a sport at Sacramento State, the program has compiled a 993-449 overall record (.689 winning percentage).
• Recently, the Big Sky Conference announced there will be predetermined site locations for the 2018 and 2019 Big Sky Volleyball Tournament. Big Sky teams went through a bid process, and as a result, Northern Colorado will host the tournament this year, and Sacramento State will host in 2019.
• In all, the Hornets will play 32 regular season matches this year - 16 at home, 12 on the road, and four on neutral floors.
• Sacramento State will play 18 Big Sky matches this season after playing 16 the previous four seasons. North Dakota, the defending Big Sky Tournament champions, left the conference after the 2017-18 academic year. With North Dakota no longer in the league, each team will now play nine home matches and nine on the road. The Hornets will play every team in the conference twice except for Portland State (road) and Northern Colorado (home). The Big Sky is now an 11-member league for volleyball.
• Each of the last four years, for volleyball, the Big Sky was split into two six-team divisions. With the departure of North Dakota, there will no longer be divisional play. Sacramento State had been in the South Division, winning each of the last two divisional crowns.
• Despite entering just her third season with the Hornets, senior outside hitter Mikaela Nocetti has the chance to join the 1,000 kills-1,000 digs club. Nocetti, who transferred to Sacramento State from Portland prior to her sophomore year, enters the season with 769 kills and 656 digs in a Sacramento State uniform. Last year, she finished 496 kills and 411 digs.