SACRAMENTO — One year removed from a Big Sky Conference regular season championship, the Sacramento State volleyball program was selected to finish third out of 11 teams in the conference's preseason coaches poll.
Eleventh-year head coach Ruben Volta will oversee a roster that features 10 returners and four starters from a year ago when the Hornets went 26-10 overall, 15-1 in league and captured the program's first Big Sky regular season title since 2007. The team was a perfect 8-0 in regular season home matches against Big Sky opposition for the third straight year, and eventually qualified for National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) postseason tournament.
After splitting into a pair of six-team divisions each of the previous four seasons, the Big Sky will now be an 11-member conference. With the departure of North Dakota from the league, there will no longer be divisional play as Sacramento State had won each of the previous two South Division titles.
Idaho received nine first place votes in the poll and assumed the top spot with 99 total points, followed by Northern Arizona (87 points, two first place votes) and Sacramento State (78). The Hornets combined for a 2-1 record against those two teams last year with the lone conference loss of the year coming in Flagstaff against NAU in five sets (16-14 in the fifth).
Rounding out the final eight spots in the preseason poll were fourth-place Portland State (71) followed by Weber State (63), Northern Colorado (56), Idaho State (52), Montana State (34), Montana (28), Southern Utah (20) and Eastern Washington (17).
This marks the second straight year Sacramento State has been selected third in the preseason coaches poll after being picked fifth in 2016. The Hornets have posted three straight seasons with at least 20 wins, combining for a 72-29 overall record and 40-8 league mark over that span.
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 loss 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.
There are 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.
The Hornets open the season on Aug. 24-25 when the team hosts the Hornet Invitational. The two-day, four-team tournament will see Sacramento State host both Utah State and CSUN on the 24th, and Arizona on the 25th.
PRESEASON POLL - Total Points (First Place Votes)
1. Idaho - 99 (9)
2. Northern Arizona - 87 (2)
3. Sacramento State - 78
4. Portland State - 71
5. Weber State - 63
6. Northern Colorado - 56
7. Idaho State - 52
8. Montana State - 34
9. Montana - 28
10. Southern Utah - 20
11. Eastern Washington - 17
October 22, 2018 TWO STRAIGHT WEEKS! NOCETTI NAMED BIG SKY PLAYER OF THE WEEK AGAIN
October 20, 2018 VOLLEYBALL WINS FIFTH STRAIGHT, REMAINS IN TIE FOR FIRST PLACE
October 15, 2018 NOCETTI NAMED BIG SKY VOLLEYBALL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
October 13, 2018 VOLLEYBALL MOVES INTO FIRST PLACE AFTER SWEEP OF WEBER STATE
October 11, 2018 VOLLEYBALL CONTINUES TO ROLL, SWEEPS IDAHO STATE AT HOME
October 6, 2018 VOLLEYBALL WINS AT EASTERN WASHINGTON, NOW 4-2 IN BIG SKY PLAY
October 4, 2018 VOLLEYBALL’S WINNING STREAK SNAPPED IN 3-1 LOSS AT IDAHO
October 1, 2018 OLIN NAMED BIG SKY OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
September 29, 2018 VOLLEYBALL WINS THIRD STRAIGHT, BEATS NORTHERN ARIZONA IN FIVE SETS
September 27, 2018 VOLLEYBALL’S MATCH TONIGHT VS SOUTHERN UTAH PUSHED BACK TO A 8:00 PM START
September 27, 2018 VOLLEYBALL BEATS SOUTHERN UTAH, WINS 1,000TH MATCH IN PROGRAM HISTORY
September 26, 2018 VOLLEYBALL HOSTS A PAIR OF MATCHES; SEEKS 1,000TH WIN IN PROGRAM HISTORY
September 22, 2018 VOLLEYBALL WINS AT MONTANA STATE; NOCETTI SECURES 1,000TH CAREER KILL
September 18, 2018 VOLLEYBALL OPENS BIG SKY CONFERENCE PLAY THIS WEEK AT THE MONTANA SCHOOLS
September 14, 2018 INJURY RAVAGED VOLLEYBALL PLAYS TOUGH, BUT FALLS TO PORTLAND
September 14, 2018 VOLLEYBALL FALLS TO 13TH-RANKED WASHINGTON
September 10, 2018 SWINNEY NAMED BIG SKY DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
September 6, 2018 VOLLEYBALL HOSTS THE 4-TEAM SACRAMENTO STATE INVITE FRIDAY AND SATURDAY
September 4, 2018 VOLLEYBALL COMES UP JUST SHORT IN 3-1 HOME LOSS TO UC DAVIS
August 28, 2018 VOLLEYBALL FALLS ON THE ROAD TO SANTA CLARA
August 25, 2018 VOLLEYBALL FALLS IN FOUR SETS TO ARIZONA
August 24, 2018 VOLLEYBALL OPENS SEASON WITH 3-1 VICTORY OVER UTAH STATE
August 8, 2018 VOLLEYBALL SELECTED THIRD IN BIG SKY PRESEASON COACHES POLL