FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Northern Arizona volleyball pulled out a 3-2 win over Eastern Washington on Thursday night at the Rolle Activity Center. The Lumberjacks defeated the Big Sky Conference’s first place team after opening a two-set lead, dropping the next two, and then finishing the Eagles off in the fifth and final set. NAU won by sets of 25-23, 25-12, 19-25, 26-28, and 15-12.
“It has an upside and a down side,” said head coach Craig Choate of how the match unfolded. “Going into it I didn’t think a fifth game was ever going to be good for us because we have had trouble hanging on to stuff. But at some point you have to get over that mountain and win that one. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”
NAU (6-10, 3-4 BSC) took advantage of an Eastern Washington team (11-7, 5-2 BSC) that struggled through the first two sets.
The Eagles hit .114 and .077 in sets one and two, respectively, well off their season average of .192. The Lumberjacks played a close first set with Eastern Washington, but opened a commanding lead in the second aided by five Eastern Washington receiving errors off NAU serves.
After the break, Eastern Washington regained their composure and fought off the Lumberjacks on a 9-3 run to end the set after the score was knotted at 16-16. In the fourth, NAU had match point at 24-21, but were unable to finish, a reoccurring issue for a young Lumberjack team this season.
However, in the final set, the Lumberjacks traded leads with Eastern Washington, but pulled ahead 11-7 and eventually closed the Eagles out 15-12.
“I thought we got a little tentative late,” Choate said. “We have been up in games and let them get away from us. Now they know the kind of effort it takes.”
The Lumberjacks showed that maturation process on Thursday defeating a team that finished runner-up in the Big Sky Conference a year ago and one that is locked in a three-way tie for first place with Portland State and Northern Colorado this fall.
“We had to get over the hump that says people can come into our gym and just win,” said Choate. “Hopefully the win tonight helped change that.”
Sophomore Kobi Christensen paced the Lumberjacks with a career-high 17 kills and .286 hitting percentage. Kelli Dallmann recorded a double-double with 24 assists and 14 digs switching back and forth between setter and outside hitter throughout the match. Lauren Campbell added 10 kills while Anna Gott and Lexi Schroeder combined for 27 digs.
The Lumberjacks will have only a day to celebrate the upset victory as they face Portland State (11-6, 5-1 BSC) on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the Rolle Activity Center. The Vikings are now tied with Eastern Washington for second place in the conference standings after Northern Colorado defeated the Vikings 3-1 on Thursday night.