POCATELLO, Idaho – Idaho State senior Breanne Van Every hit .444 with 23 kills to lead a lethal Bengal attack to a .387 team hitting percentage and a 3-1 (25-20, 23-25, 25-21, 25-21) win over NAU in both team's Big Sky opener on Friday night in Pocatello, Idaho. The Bengals improved to 7-3 overall while the Lumberjacks moved to 8-2 on the season.
"We hit above our team average but Idaho State tonight was fabulous," NAU head coach Craig Choate said. "They served us out of the gym and they hit unbelievable; this was the toughest match we played all year, and if they play like that they'll win the conference. We played great but sometimes great's not good enough. We just have to go get Weber State tomorrow and I think they'll be ready."
NAU hit a solid .286 for the match but could not slow the Idaho State attack, as the Bengals had five players hit above .300 and hit .316 or better in each set, totaling a 71-55 advantage in kills. Freshman Janae Vander Ploeg led the Lumberjacks with 14 kills while hitting .333 while sophomore Kalee Kirby posted her sixth double-double of the season with 44 assists and 11 digs. Idaho State held a 10-6 advantage in blocks and a 54-42 advantage in digs.
The Lumberjacks opened strong in taking a 7-1 lead in the first set. Idaho State called timeout and responded with a 9-2 run to take a 10-9 lead, and the set would remain close to a 13-13 tie. Up 18-16, the Bengals used a 6-2 run to take a 24-18 lead en route to winning the set 25-20.
NAU opened the second set with an identical 7-1 lead but was able to sustain its advantage for most of the set. Idaho State hit .500 for the set and was able to even the score at 23-23 after trailing by one point on several occasions. With the score even, Vander Ploeg and sophomore Taylor Stephens would connect on consecutive kills to even the match at 1-1.
It was Idaho State that jumped to the early lead after the intermission, taking a 5-1 lead and extending to an 8-3 advantage to force an NAU timeout. The Lumberjacks would get back within a 9-8 deficit with a 6-1 run, but the Bengals would maintain a slim lead before building back to a 19-14 cushion and win the set 25-21.
NAU took a 7-5 lead early in the fourth set and led 9-7 before ISU used an 8-2 run to go up 15-11. The Bengals would quickly extend the advantage to 18-12 and would lead by no less than three points for the remainder of the set to close out a 3-1 win.
The Lumberjacks will be back in action at 3 p.m. Saturday at Weber State. The Wildcats dropped a 3-1 decision to Southern Utah in their Big Sky opener on Friday.