Sacramento State women’s volleyball prepares for competition

State Hornet Staff

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The Sacramento State women’s volleyball team will prepare for Big Sky conference play after opening the season with three tournaments: College of Charleston tournament, Fresno State Invitational and its home tournament, the Sac State Invitational.

Last season, the Hornets finished third in the Big Sky with a 10-6 record, but this season they were projected in the preseason poll to finish sixth in the conference, according to bigskyconf.com.

Sac State will open Big Sky play with two straight home games: one against the Eastern Washington University Eagles and another against the Portland State Vikings.

On Thursday, the Hornets will matchup with the Eastern Washington and even though the Eagles are (0-11), Sac State will not overlook them, head coach Ruben Volta said.

“They have had a couple of injuries,” said Volta. “We will (use) a different line-up than what we had seen in the preseason, so I expect them to be ready to go.”

After head coach Miles Kydd resigned for personal reasons, as reported on bigsky.com, the last place team from Cheney, Wash. has struggled this season, winning only three of 35 sets under interim head coach Lisa Westlake.

The Eagles, although struggling, still bring size to the court with the 6-foot-4-inch redshirt freshman middle blocker Kellen Barfield.

Barfield has shut down attackers at the net 30 times this season, accounting for a third of her team’s blocks early in 2012.

Last season, Sac State swept the season series against Eastern Washington by winning six of the eight sets the two teams played.

In Saturday’s duel versus Portland State, the Hornets may be looking to exact a little revenge.

In 2011, Sac State split the regular season matches with the Vikings after both teams defended its home court. However, in the Big Sky Conference tournament semi-finals, the Hornets were knocked out and stopped short of an NCAA tournament bid by Portland State when the Vikings defeated them in three out of four sets.

Portland State has a record of 4-6 with a young roster including only two seniors.

The Vikings will be led on the court by a Northern California native and Oregon transfer, Jaklyn Wheeler. The junior outside hitter has been dominant so far in 2012. She has totaled 155 kills with an average of more than four kills per set.

Sac State has posted a record of 4-5 during the early part of the season, but will need to have a stronger start in conference play to prove the preseason rankings wrong and set a tone throughout Big Sky.

Strong play from Kayla Beal, Jessie Genger and Janelle Currey has been key so far and the Hornets will need more of the same if they hope to win conference.

Beal is a junior opposite from Dixon, Calif. who is leading the team in blocks with 36 putting her at more than one block per set.

Senior co-captain Genger has been an offensive weapon that opponents have keyed on this season, head coach Ruben Volta said after the recent home tournament.

Genger has made 113 kills to give her nearly 4 kills per set. She is also third on the team with more than two digs per set.

The other co-captain Janelle Currey is also a senior outside hitter with a strong all-around game.

She is second on the team with more than three kills per set and digs per set, including 15 digs against Saint Mary’s College in the championship match of the Sac State Invitational on Sept. 1.

Eastern Washington and Portland State should be good opponents to warm up with before the Hornets have to take on the top two teams in the conference, Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona, in the coming weeks.

The first ball goes over the net at 7 p.m. when the Sac State Hornets take on the Eagles of Eastern Washington at The Nest located in Yosemite Hall on Thursday.

Joe Davis can be reached at josephdavis@saclink.csus.edu.

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