Big Sky Conference standings
MISSOULA, Mont. — Sacramento State held a 2-0 lead in sets, and had an 18-15 advantage in the third, but Montana stormed back to win the third frame, and eventually the match, 3-2 (20-25, 26-28, 25-23, 25-23, 15-10), in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams on Thursday evening at the West Auxiliary Gym.
Sacramento State, which dropped its Big Sky opener for the first time since 2014, fell to 5-10 overall and 0-1 in the Big Sky. The Hornets played last week (three matches) without a true setter because of injuries, but redshirt freshman Ashtin Olin returned from a knee injury to play in tonight's match.
Things were looking good when the Hornets jumped out to a 2-0 lead in sets, and 18-15 in the third. However, Montana immediately responded with a 4-0 run and eventually took the third frame, gaining momentum. Each of the middle three sets were decided by two points as the Hornets saved a set point in the second before winning, and held a 23-22 lead in the third and were tied at 23-23 in the fourth.
The fifth set wasn't particularly close as Montana jumped out to a 5-0 lead and never led by anything less than three points the entire way. The victory allowed the Grizzlies, who were playing at home for the first time since Sept. 1, to improve to 4-9 overall and 1-0 in the conference.
One major problem tonight for the Hornets was service errors. Sacramento State finished with 18, the most by a Hornet squad in recent memory. Sacramento State finished with four service errors in the first set, six in the second set, five more in the third, two in the fourth and one in the fifth. One of the best serving teams in the Big Sky, the Hornets finished with just six aces compared to the 18 errors.
Sacramento State, the defending Big Sky regular season champions, has now lost eight of its last nine matches when playing the Grizzlies in Missoula. Overall, the Hornets have dropped five straight this year, the team's longest losing streak since 2014.
Montana, which hit just .158 in the match, received a match-high 23 kills from Mikaela Hammer. The senior outside hitter had a huge kill at 22-23 of the third set, and had kills at 22-22 and 23-23 of the fourth set. She followed that up with four kills without an error in eight swings in the fifth. In fact, Hammer's four kills in the fifth were one more than the entire Sacramento State team.
Hornet outside hitter and team co-captin Mikaela Nocetti had a big night, finishing with 22 kills (one shy of her career high) to go along with nine digs, three aces and a .281 hitting percentage. Nocetti, who is the third in the Big Sky in kills, is now averaging a team-best 3.79 kills per set. She has posted at least 11 kills in 10 of the last 11 matches, and has tallied 20-plus kills on four occasions this season.
Outside hitter Sarah Davis chipped in 13 kills and rightside hitter Cianna Andrews had 10 kills, six blocks and a .421 hitting percentage. Andrews had 10 kills with just two errors in 19 attacks. No other Hornet had more than five kills. Lana Brown finished with five kills and six blocks, and Brie Gathright had five kills and five blocks.
Sacramento State, which hit .216, but finished with 16 less digs than Montana, saw libero Paige Swinney had a team-high 16 digs. Olin finished with four kills, 51 assists and 11 digs. Skyler Takeda had seven digs.
Sacramento State returns to action on Saturday when it plays Montana State on the road at 6 p.m. PDT. The Bobcats beat Portland State in five sets tonight at home.