Big Sky loss looms large as Sac State volleyball falls in NIVC Tournament


Thomas Frey - The State Hornet

Sacramento State senior setter Kennedy Kurtz sets the ball against UC Irvine during the third set of a 3-0 loss in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship Tournament Tuesday, Nov. 28 in the Alex G. Spanos Center at the University of the Pacific.

Thomas Frey

Sacramento State fell quickly to UC Irvine in three sets in the first round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship Tournament Tuesday in the Alex G. Spanos Center at the University of the Pacific.

The Hornets (26-10, 15-1 Big Sky) were coming off a five-set loss to North Dakota in the Big Sky Championship Nov. 15, and the effects lingered into the game against the Anteaters (23-7, 10-6 Big West) in Stockton, California.

Sac State led North Dakota after three sets and were one set away from winning the Big Sky Tournament and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the Fighting Hawks won the last two sets, and the Hornets were sent to the NIVC, the secondary postseason volleyball tournament.

“We couldn’t get over the loss from the conference tournament,” junior outside hitter Mikaela Nocetti said. “We just couldn’t pick ourselves up. We didn’t have a good practice all week, and we didn’t deserve to win (tonight).”

The lack of energy was apparent from the beginning. Sac State scored the first two points of the game before the Anteaters rallied off six straight points. The Hornets were letting balls land on the floor without an attempt to save them, and the 6-0 run by UC Irvine only came to an end due to a service ace on the part of the Anteaters.

The service ace was one of the few mistakes made by UC Irvine all night, and they had two runs of five or more points before taking a 20-6 lead. The Hornets then rebounded by scoring 10 of the last 15 points before eventually falling 25-16.

Sac State kept that energy up and had a 10-7 lead in the second set. However, the positive play was short lived when the Anteaters went on a 4-0 run to close out the set with a 25-19 win and a 2-0 lead in the match.

The Hornets started off the third set with another lead at 4-1, but the momentum again fell short. UC Irvine scored 14 straight points and took a 15-4 advantage before Sac State junior middle blocker Lana Brown recorded a kill to stop the bleeding.

“We didn’t play as well as we normally do,” Brown said. “We made a lot of errors that we normally wouldn’t make. We really wanted to beat North Dakota, and that was a big letdown that we didn’t win.

“We needed to take this game more seriously.”

Sac State lost in the third set 25-10 to end its season, and Brown led the team with only four kills and six blocks. This was the first time this season and in recent memory, according to the Sac State Athletics department, that no Hornet recorded at least five kills in a match.

The loss was the 10th on the season for the Sac State. However, this was the first time the Hornets had at least 25 wins since 2015 when they lost in the Big Sky Tournament semifinals.

“We had a great season,” sophomore outside hitter Sarah Davis said. “We ultimately didn’t end up achieving our goal, but we took care of a lot of teams. Tonight just wasn’t our night.”