BERKELEY, Calif. – Sophomore Sydney Kemper hit .571 with nine kills and six blocks and senior Kelli Dallmann and freshman Janae Vander Ploeg totaled double-digit kills to lead NAU to a 3-0 (25-21, 26-24, 25-19) sweep of UC Riverside to open play at the Molten Classic Presented by Hilton Garden Inn. The Lumberjacks improved to 7-0 and extended their nonconference winning streak to 16 matches while UC Riverside moved to 3-4.
UC Riverside jumped to a 9-5 lead in the opening set, but NAU would use a 6-1 run to pull ahead 11-10. The Highlanders would regain a 14-12 lead, but another NAU spurt, this time an 8-1 run, gave the Lumberjacks a 20-15 cushion. UCR pulled back within 23-21 but NAU closed with a block and the fifth kill of the set from Vander Ploeg to take a 1-0 lead.
The Highlanders would lead for the majority of the second set, taking an early 11-5 lead and leading until the late stages of the set. After trailing 20-17, NAU would use a kill and two UCR attack errors to level the set for the first time and then take a 21-20 lead. The teams would trade leads until the Highlanders had a set point at 24-23, but a service error and two ensuing attack errors gave NAU the set at 26-24.
After two narrow set wins, NAU took control of the third set early and led for the duration. The Lumberjacks hit a match-high .417 in the third set with no attack errors, using exceptional hitting to open up a 21-14 lead. Three consecutive Highlander kills would bring them within a 21-17 deficit but they could get no closer as the teams traded points until senior Jen Wilson capped the match with a kill to complete the NAU sweep.
NAU hit .333 for the match, its fourth match of the year with a hitting percentage above .300 after recording one such match all of last season. Kemper, who entered the match leading the Big Sky with a .402 hitting percentage, committed just one error in 14 attacks en route to her impressive .571 percentage while Dallmann hit .407 and added 10 digs to her 11 kills for her third double-double of the season. NAU had an 8-3 advantage in blocks and UC Riverside committed 19 attack errors to just eight by the Lumberjacks.
NAU will look to complete a second consecutive season sweep of nonconference play on Saturday, facing Penn at 1 p.m. and tournament host Cal at 7 p.m.