CEDAR CITY, Utah — The Southern Utah University volleyball team prepares for two Big Sky Conference road games this week. The Thunderbirds will first play the Sacramento State Hornets on Thursday, at 8 p.m., then make the trip to Oregon to play the Portland State Vikings on Saturday, at 2 p.m.
“Things go from the laundry basket, right into the suitcase,” said head coach Pete Hoyer. “At this point in the season, we have a rhythm on the road. It’s going to be nice to have one game a day with a rest in between. Gives us plenty of time to fully focus on both opponents. They are two pretty different teams. Sacramento State is very skilled, well-coached, they prolong rallies and could be in the top ten blocks per set in the nation. Portland State is in the same boat we are; they have lots of lineup changes and are still trying to find themselves as a team. Regardless, our responsibility is taking care of business on our side of the net.”
Last Time Out
The Thunderbirds opened conference play at home last week where they, unfortunately, fell 3-1 in an energetic match against Weber State on Thursday. Saturday’s match didn’t carry the intensity that SUU hoped to bring which led to a 3-0 loss to Idaho State. The Thunderbirds are 0-2 for conference play and 1-13 for the season.
Janet Kalaniuvalu once again led the team in kills with 30 total, followed by Mackenzie Dowell who had 23 on the week, 17 of them coming out of the Weber State game where she set a personal season high . The Thunderbirds defense struggled both games, yet Miahna Waters contributed greatly from the back row with 40 digs and seven assists. The Thunderbirds continued to stay strong from the service line as six different players tallied an ace over the course of both matches.
Opponent Preview: Sacramento State (6-10, 1-1 Big Sky)
The Hornets are 1-1 in conference after two road matches last week, losing 3-2 to Montana and beating Montana State 3-1. It was obvious that the Hornets missed both their setters during the first week of conference play, but look to put both players back into the rotation this week which will add another dimension to the team.
Proving to be one of the largest threats in the conference are the Hornets’ middle blockers. Lana Brown and Brie Gathright combine for 125 blocks this season. Brown tallies 15 solo blocks, and 65 total. Gathright has nine solo blocks, with 60 total. The Hornets look to set the volleyball to senior outside hitter Mikaela Nocetti and junior outside hitter/opposite Sarah Davis. Nocetti leads the team in kills with 233 on the season, averaging 3.82 kills per set. Davis totals 131 kills on the season, averaging 2.15 kills per set. Outside hitter Paige Swinney leads the team in digs with 259, followed by defensive specialist Skyler Takeda who has 156 digs of her own.
Head coach Ruben Volten is amidst his 11th season with the Hornets.
In their last meeting, the Thunderbirds lost 3-1 on October 28, 2017.
Opponent Preview: Portland State (1-13, 0-2 Big Sky)
The Vikings are 0-2 in conference play after also playing in Montana last week. Falling 3-2 to Montana State and 0-3 to Montana. With only nine dressed and able players, injuries have prevented the Vikings from showcasing their best performance.
Offensively and defensively, the Vikings are led by senior Jenna Mullen who has 143 kills on the season, averaging 3.18 kills per set and 85 digs. Mullen was injured in the match against Montana and may or may not return to play this weekend. The only current healthy outside hitter for the Vikings is Toni McDougald who has 82 kills on the season, averaging 1.95 kills per set. Parker Webb is next in line behind Mullen in digs, totally 41 this season.
Michael Seeman hit his 12th year mark this season as head coach of the Vikings.
In their last meeting, the Thunderbirds fell 3-1 to the Vikings on October 26, 2017.
Live Stats/Live Stream
A live stream for Southern Utah’s match against Sacramento State and Portland State will be available on PlutoTV and WatchBigSky.com
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Story and Photo Courtesy of: SUU Athletics Strategic Communication