Sac State seasoned volleyball program set for new year


Michael Zhang

Sacramento State senior setter Kennedy Kurtz sets the ball for a teammate against Portland State Nov. 5 at Colberg Court.

Sami Soto

After traveling across the country to China, the Sacramento State volleyball team is looking to integrate its experiences this past summer to the 2017 season.

The Hornets played their home opener Aug. 30 against the University of the Pacific, losing in four sets to bring the team’s record to 3-2.

Sac State welcome back 12 returners, four of which (senior setter Kennedy Kurtz, senior outside hitter Shannon Boyle, junior Brie Gathright and sophomore outside hitter Mikaela Nocceti) were starters last season. Four freshmen also joined the team.

“Our experience helps us,” Sac State coach Ruben Volta said. “It helped us this past weekend in our tournament where we went 3-1. I think our seniors are doing a really great job.”

Kurtz leads the team as returning captain for her final season with the Hornets. Kurtz was the only Hornet to play in all 119 sets last season, starting in all 32 matches. Junior middle blocker Lana Brown — who earned the first Big Sky Conference Player of the Week award on Aug. 28 — also returns as middle blocker coming off of an average of 1.14 kills last season.

The trip to China gave the Hornets a head start in building a strong team dynamic pre-season and was the first time the women’s volleyball program has taken a trip abroad.

“China gave us a good idea of what this season was going to look like with all of our new girls,” Kurtz said. “We had a chance to play with some underclassmen who were going to be filling in some big roles.”

China provided the team with 11 days of exploring Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing with a first night dinner hosted by volunteer assistant coach Weidi Zhang and family. Zhang was the initial inspiration behind the trip.

The trip also introduced the team to a type of volleyball that is not used in the U.S.

“Just playing such disciplined teams — that culture of volleyball is just so disciplined,” Boyle said. “Their form is amazing and they rarely make mistakes.”

The Hornets participate in four tournaments during the first half of the season; two of which they have competed in already in New York and Idaho. They will travel to Kentucky for the first time in program history and Nevada in September.

“In the past we’ve been a really strong serving team,” Nocetti said. “I think we need to get back to that as well as improving our serve receive passing.”

Sac State’s overall record dropped to 3-5 after losing all three of its matches in the Boise State Invitational on Friday and Saturday.

The Hornets next face off against UC Davis in the Causeway Classic Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Pavilion.