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The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

Hornet volleyball leaves Montana with a Big Sky trophy

Sac State volleyball played in two long matches, splitting them and winning the Big Sky regular season title
Bridgette+Smith+holds+the+trophy+and+celebrates+with+the+rest+of+her+team+after+defeating+Montana+Saturday%2C+Nov.+18%2C+2023.+Sac+State+volleyball+won+the+Big+Sky+regular+season+title+and+secured+the+number+one+seed+heading+into+the+Big+Sky+Tournament.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Montana+Athletics%29
Bridgette Smith holds the trophy and celebrates with the rest of her team after defeating Montana Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. Sac State volleyball won the Big Sky regular season title and secured the number one seed heading into the Big Sky Tournament. (Photo courtesy of Montana Athletics)

Sac State volleyball won the Big Sky regular season title after two similar games in Montana resulted in very different outcomes.

Sac State ended the season with a 20-10 record and a 13-3 conference record, leading the Big Sky Conference.

The Hornets’ final win in the regular season seized the number one seed in the Big Sky Conference as they head into the Big Sky Tournament on Wednesday, Nov. 22.

Thursday: Sac State: 2 Montana State: 3

The best the Big Sky Conference had to offer faced off against each other with a Sac State vs. Montana State matchup.

The match was exactly what you would expect when two Big Sky juggernauts clash with every set being a close, heavily contested battle.

“We played some really close sets, so I think offensively we’re doing fine,” Sac State head coach Ruben Volta said. “It was just a play or two by both teams that made a difference.”

Some major errors from the Hornets caused their momentum to come to a screeching halt.

Senior outside hitter Bridgette Smith fell victim to an error-ending set when she hit one out of bounds, giving the Bobcats the first set, 28-26.

The second set went back and forth, but Smith and senior outside hitter Caitlin Volkmann tied the game back up with two scores, but the Bobcats were quickly able to score. The Hornets once again would be facing set point.

With their backs against the wall, Smith did what she’s best at and earned a kill to ignite the Hornets’ offense.

Junior outside hitter Ellie Tisko secured a solo block to gain the lead, and then sophomore setter Kate Doorn tipped one over the net, catching Montana State off guard.

“We have to stay aggressive because Montana State, they’re playing a good game and we want that,” Doorn said. “We want to play a game, but at the end of the day, we need to be aggressive and pick swings, take risks and play our own game.”

The Hornets fell by five early in the third set but were able to rally and tie it up at 15 with a service ace by Smith.

Once again, the Hornets’ momentum would come crashing down, due to a poorly timed error. A serve by Smith floated out of bounds, granting Montana State the lead and giving them the set, 25-21.

After the Bobcats were off to a 7-4 lead, they committed four errors in a row to help launch the Hornets ahead. This time, the Hornets had the lead and they held onto it for their life.

Sac State won the fourth set handily, 25-18 after senior middle blocker Kalani Hayes had a big swing that found a sweet spot in the back of the court.

“I felt like we were pretty focused and one point can really change the momentum, so I think Kalani had a great kill and that really can change the vibe,” junior setter Hailey Plugge said.

The set was tied at 14 when Plugge was called for an attack error, but senior middle blocker Tiyanane Kamba-Griffin spiked one down to tie it back up.

Montana State would respond with two kills to end the match and take down the Big Sky leaders, 17-15.

RELATED: Portland State serves Sac State volleyball their second Big Sky loss

Saturday: Sac State: 3 Montana: 2


Sac State volleyball had their backs against the wall and if they wanted to outright win the Big Sky regular season championship, they would have to deliver a hard-fought match against Montana.

“We won a lot of close sets, in some matches, and here we find ourselves kind of losing some close sets this last week,” Volta said. “We talked about being better at those important points.”

The Hornets were down by three and the Grizzlies were at set point. With offensive kills and defensive blocks, the score was tied at 24 and momentum shifted toward the Hornets.

The Hornets wouldn’t take advantage of the momentum they had built up and it would be extinguished after a service error. The Grizzlies would win the set because of two fatal errors by the Hornets.

The Hornets were down in the second set facing a 7-2 deficit by the Grizzlies.

With Montana making several errors, Sac State was back in the game.

Montana was unable to stop the Hornet’s momentum. Smith was on fire. Nailing powerful and strategic kills, assisting in blocks and eventually serving in the final play and sealing the second set for Sac State, 25-22.

Using the anger they were left with during the second set, Montana propelled themselves to a 10-3 start.

The Grizzlies helped the Hornets by making three errors, allowing them to retrieve the lead. However, Montana was able to regain it once again and they marched their way to set point, 24-19. If they wanted to take control of the match Sac State would need to score five consecutive points to tie the set up.

Hayes and Volkmann pounded down two kills each and Hayes secured a block that would tie it up. Although the Hornet’s put up a valiant effort, the Grizzlies would gain the lead and then block Hayes to secure a third-set victory, 26-24.

“We do a really good job when we’re in a situation like that where we have to win the next set, we just say amnesia,” Doorn said. “Let’s forget about that set and let’s play a new set.”

Hayes led Sac State to a roaring 13-6 lead. With crushing kills and impenetrable blocks, Hayes was involved in 10 points in the fourth set and led the Hornets to a 25-15 win.

“I thought we served really tough,” Volta said. “We have been a little bit out of system, made the game a little more predictable for us if we played better defense and blocked better, so we carried a little of that in the fifth set, but I really think the serving tough changed it for us.”

Sac State was off to a scorching-hot start in their final set with a 4-1 lead, but a serve by Tisko sailed out of bounds giving Montana a chance to come back.

The Hornets were able to maintain a two-score lead, and with a block by senior opposite hitter Karlee Soderberg and Kamba-Griffin, they took the win.

“We got off to such a great start in the conference and knowing that we had five or seven on the road at the end of the season, we knew it was going to be a challenge down the stretch, so I’m just super happy for this group,” Volta said.

Sac State won the Big Sky Conference regular season title for the first time in six years.

The Hornets’ attention will now be focused on the Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal against Idaho State on Wednesday at noon.

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Ryan Lorenz, Sports Staffer
(he/him) Ryan Lorenz is in his second semester at The State Hornet. He is a former Sports Editor for Cosumnes River College's publication, The Connection. He has a strong passion for sports and plans on having a career in sports media.
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