LAS VEGAS, Nev. – NAU hit .369 as a team and held The Citadel to a -.036 hitting percentage in a dominant 3-0 win (25-9, 25-14, 25-18) in the opening match of the 2012 season and the UNLV Invitational Friday in Las Vegas. Senior Kelli Dallmann, playing her first match at outside hitter after serving as NAU's primary setter during her first three collegiate seasons, hit .321 with a match-high 13 kills to lead the Lumberjacks to the easy win.
"You just want to win a match to start the season," said head coach Craig Choate. "I figured we would have a few people nervous for the first one, but we played well and got the 'w'. We didn't play great defense, but you can't really complain when you look at the numbers and there really wasn't much to argue out there."
In addition to Dallmann, three other Lumberjacks hit over .300 with at least five kills. Freshmen Janae Vander Ploeg (.375, seven kills) and Payton Bock (.625, five kills) had superb collegiate debuts while sophomore Sydney Kemper totaled nine kills on a .533 hitting percentage and two blocks. Sophomore Kalee Kirby, replacing Dallmann as NAU's primary setter, posted 32 assists and four digs and freshman Trianna Henry had a team-high nine digs in the win.
"I was pretty nervous at first but after the first service it was really more excitement to be out there playing with the team," said Vander Ploeg. "It was just a ton of fun to be out there and it was great to have our whole freshman class out there playing well."
The first set was even at 3-3 before the Lumberjacks went on a 9-0 run and never looked back. The Lumberjacks hit .550 as a team in the opening stanza while limiting the Bulldogs to a -.120 hitting percentage in a dominant 25-9 set win. The Citadel jumped to a 3-0 lead in the second set before NAU took over as the Bulldogs made nine attack errors in the set and the Lumberjacks took a 2-0 lead with a 25-14 set win.
The most competitive set would be the third, as the Bulldogs trailed the Lumberjacks by just a 10-9 score. NAU would break the set open after that, utilizing a 10-4 run to take a 20-13 lead. The Citadel would pull within four points at 20-16 but NAU closed on a 5-2 spurt to claim the match with a 25-18 set.
The Citadel did not have a hitting percentage above .000 in any set and committed more attack errors (25) than kills (22) in the match. NAU had a 34-29 advantage in digs, a 37-20 advantage in assists, but was outblocked 6-5.
NAU continues play in the UNLV Invitational on Saturday facing CSU Bakersfield at 10 a.m. before closing the tournament against host UNLV at 7 p.m. with a live radio broadcast on NAUAthletics.com.