March 26, 2017

Volleyball team achieves 20-win total for second straight season

Sacramento State sophomore midblocker Brie Gathright spikes the ball against Northern Arizona at Colberg Court on Oct. 27. (Photo by Matthew Dyer)

The Sacramento State volleyball season came to a close earlier than anticipated after losing in the second round of the Big Sky Tournament in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Sac State (20-12, 13-3 Big Sky) finished first in the Big Sky South division and was just shy of hosting the Big Sky Tournament over North Dakota State (26-9, 14-2 Big Sky). After defeating Eastern Washington in five sets on Nov. 17, the Hornets fell to Northern Arizona in four sets (25-20, 18-25, 22-25, 23-25) in the semifinals on Nov. 18.

“We started off the match playing really well again and they responded then we lost a couple really close sets, one by two points and one by three,” Sac State head coach Ruben Volta said. “We had leads in those games and we just couldn’t quite execute. You know, it was a tough match for us, but I was proud of our team, (we) had a really good season and competed hard.”

Volta completed his ninth season at the helm and led the team to a perfect 8-0 conference record at Colberg Court for the second consecutive season. In fact, the team only dropped two sets at home all season.

Sac State’s conference record of 13-3 was nearly the best record in the entire Big Sky, and was the team’s best record since 2007 under former head coach Debby Colberg, who coached from 1976-07 and brought two national championships to Sac State.

Five Hornets were placed on the all-Big Sky Conference team; junior setter Kennedy Kurtz was the lone member to make first team all-conference, while junior Shannon Boyle and seniors Madeline Cannon, Courtney Dietrich and Lexie Skalbeck qualified for second-team honors.

Sacramento State senior blockers Courtney Dietrich and Madeline Cannon block the ball from Lauren Jacobsen of Northern Arizona at Colberg Court on Oct. 27. (Photo by Matthew Dyer)
Sacramento State senior blockers Madeline Cannon and Courtney Dietrich block the ball from Lauren Jacobsen of Northern Arizona at Colberg Court on Oct. 27. (Photo by Matthew Dyer)

Skalbeck is the first Sac State player to earn Big Sky Libero of the Year since Kristin Lutes won the award in consecutive seasons in 2005-06. Skalbeck also finished with 1,767 digs, which ranks fourth all-time in program history. Skalbeck’s 36 digs in her final match against Northern Arizona was also a career best.

However, the nine-game winning streak and back-to-back 20-win seasons are her greatest memories at Sac State, Skalbeck said.

“I think a really great moment for us was our winning streak at home overall,” Skalbeck said.“I thought that was something we were really proud of. It was really cool to win all of our conference matches at home and stay undefeated.”

Senior outside hitter Morgan Stanley surpassed the benchmark of 1,000 career kills and became the 21st player in program history to pass 1,000 kills – with 1,007 – since 1985.

“I’ve been waiting for it all year,” Stanley said. “It’s been something I’ve been working towards so it felt really good that I finally accomplished it.”

Dietrich also acknowledged how special the past two seasons have been at Sac State after finishing her career with a total of 520 kills.

“I mean, the past two years, we have gone undefeated at home in conference, which I think is a pretty extraordinary thing,” Dietrich said. “We’ve also won 20 games these past few years, which is pretty incredible. And a lot of that goes to playing at Sac State and I think it’s awesome to go undefeated at your home court.”

Sacramento State senior midblocker Courtney Dietrich spikes the ball past Brittni Dorsey of Northern Arizona at Colberg Court on Oct. 27. (Photo by Matthew Dyer)
Sacramento State senior midblocker Courtney Dietrich spikes the ball past Brittni Dorsey of Northern Arizona at Colberg Court on Oct. 27. (Photo by Matthew Dyer)

Although the 2016 season did not end the way Dietrich intended, she believes the program is in great hands and possesses a lot of potential for the future.

“I know our coaches work really hard to recruit a good group of girls and I’d like to think that the seniors (helped) guide them to work hard and be good players,” Dietrich said. “And the coaches helped shape us and we worked really hard in practice. This year and the past few years, a huge success has been in the practice and I think that is going to be a huge part of their success in the future.”

As for the road ahead, Volta is confident that he has a solid nucleus of players for the upcoming 2017 season and beyond.

“I think we have a good core of players returning and it’s a team that knows how to compete and knows how to play the game at a high level, so I’m looking forward to playing next year,” Volta said.

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