FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Northern Arizona hosts the Fiesta Bowl Volleyball Tournament this weekend for the 19th time in the last 21 years, having won the tournament in three of the last four years, including last season. NAU (3-0) will be joined in the tournament field by Hampton (1-2), which will be making its second all-time appearance in the Fiesta Bowl Tournament, New Mexico (1-1), and San Jose State (1-2), which will both be making their first appearances.
Hampton and New Mexico will open tournament play on Friday at 4 p.m. followed by NAU and San Jose State at 7 p.m. Saturday's slate begins at 10 a.m. with New Mexico battling San Jose State followed by NAU and Hampton (1 p.m.) and San Jose State and Hampton (4 p.m.) before concluding with NAU facing New Mexico at 7 p.m. Admission to Rolle Activity Center will be free for the entire tournament. For live stats, video and match notes, visit the Tournament Page.
The Lumberjacks have gone 43-12 all-time in their annual home tournament, good for a .782 winning percentage. NAU has won the Fiesta Bowl Tournament 12 times and has had the tournament MVP 11 times out of 18 tournaments conducted. Two current Lumberjacks, Lexi Sullivan (2007) and Kobi Christensen (2010), have taken home MVP honors. Hampton will become just the seventh visiting team to make multiple appearances in the Fiesta Bowl Tournament.
NAU enters the weekend as the only undefeated team in the Big Sky after defeating CSU Bakersfield, Illinois State and Utah Valley last weekend to win the Wolverine Invitational championship. Junior setter Kelli Dallmann averaged 11.00 assists and 2.92 digs per set and posted two double-doubles in three weekend matches in Orem, Utah, earning MVP honors for the Wolverine Invitational. On Monday Dallmann added a Big Sky Player of the Week selection, her first as a Lumberjack. Libero Anna Gott and outside hitters Katie Bailey and Christensen also earned Wolverine Invitational All-Tournament team honors.
Head coach Craig Choate will make his first coaching appearance against San Jose State, the school at which he served as the head coach for 14 years from 1993 to 2007. The match will mark the first time that Choate has coached against a former team, as he has also not yet faced New Mexico State, where he began his head coaching career from 1990 to 1992. Choate compiled a 244-191 record during his time in San Jose, including five 20 wins seasons and three NCAA Tournament appearances, advancing to the second round once.
Four of the five NAU freshmen, who will be making their home debuts this weekend, saw action to open the season last week. Kalee Kirby saw the most playing time, appearing in all 12 sets with two starts and contributing 2.50 digs per set. Middle Blocker Sydney Kemper made two starts and played in 11 sets while posting a team-best 1.18 blocks per set. 6' 3" middle blocker Hannah Fitzgerald started the season opening match and played in two sets, while outside hitter Taylor Stephens recorded a kill and a block in one set of action.
San Jose State returns to the state of Arizona for the second consecutive week after opening their season at the ASU/Sheraton Classic last weekend in Tempe. The team defeated the host Sun Devils, 3-1, but lost to Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Denver by 3-1 scores. The Lumberjacks are 0-2 all-time against San Jose State. The last time the schools met was a 3-1 win for the Spartans in Flagstaff in 2006, the last of Craig Choate's 14 seasons as the head coach at SJSU.
A member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), Hampton comes to Flagstaff after competing in the Hilton RTP Tournament in Durham, N.C. last weekend. The Lady Pirates scored a 3-2 win over host North Carolina Central to end the tournament after dropping a 3-0 match to Elon and a 3-1 match to Campbell. Hampton has one of the most international rosters in all of NCAA Volleyball, as the team has just three Americans, with other players from Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Israel, Latvia, Macedonia, Puerto Rico and Serbia (10 total international players). Additionally, head coach Pedro Gonzalez is a native of Mexico and assistant coach Zuzana Cizova hails from the Czech Republic. NAU has played Hampton once before, a 3-0 Lumberjack win in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl.
New Mexico played just two matches last weekend while hosting the MCM Elegante Lobo Classic. The squad posted a 3-1 win over South Florida but dropped a 3-0 decision to No. 5 Nebraska. Seniors Allison Buck (4.00 digs per set) and Ashley Rhoades (2.42 kills per set) were named to the All-Tournament team. Based on their close geographical distance, NAU and New Mexico have a long history playing against each other, as the teams first met in 1974. The Lobos hold a slight 11-10 advantage over the Lumberjacks and have won the last two contests. The squads last met in 2007, a 3-1 Lobo win in Tempe.