FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Playing in its first home match after 11 straight road contests to open the season, the NAU volleyball team limited Sacramento State to a .096 hitting percentage and outblocked the Hornets 16-12 to score a decisive 3-1 (25-21, 25-17, 18-25, 25-15) win in its home opener on Thursday night in Rolle Activity Center. NAU improved to 10-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky as the Hornets dropped to 1-2 in conference play and 5-7 for the season.
"It was fun tonight and the crowd was great," said NAU head coach Craig Choate in regards to the 502 people that packed Rolle Activity Center. "It was great to be home and the crowd really had us excited early. I'm glad we got this one under our belt so now we can be a little more calm when we come back home."
Freshman Payton Bock shined in her home debut for the Lumberjacks, totaling a career-high 12 kills on a .556 hitting percentage along with eight blocks and helping NAU outblock the Hornets, who came into the match ranked fourth in NCAA Division-I in averaging 3.07 blocks per set. Senior Kelli Dallmann paced the Lumberjack offense with 17 kills while adding 11 digs for her sixth double-double of the season and sophomore Kalee Kirby totaled 43 assists and nine digs as NAU held Sacramento State under a .100 hitting percentage in three of the four sets.
"We were away for so long, so it felt great to be home," said Bock. "I was nervous at first since it was my first home game but by the end I felt like I got into it pretty well. We had no fans out on the road and coming home to so much support is a great feeling."
The Hornets started quickly in jumping to an early 6-1 advantage in the opening set and forcing an NAU timeout. The Lumberjacks would use an 8-3 run to level the match at 9-9 before building a 14-11 lead. After a Hornet kill brought the score to 14-12, NAU went on a 5-0 spurt to open a commanding 19-12 lead and reach set point at 24-17. Sacramento State would withstand four set points before Bock ended the set with a kill to give NAU the early lead.
Sacramento State would lead again through the early stages of the second set before NAU took its first lead at 12-11. Up 15-14, NAU would again go on an extended run with a 7-0 spurt to go up 22-14 and, on the heels of a match-best .270 hitting percentage in the set, take a commanding 2-0 lead.
After hitting below .100 in each of the first two sets, Sacramento State would hit .387 in the third set. After holding a slim 11-10 lead Sacramento State would extend to a 17-11 advantage and lead by no less than four points for the remainder of the set to force a fourth.
NAU led for the majority of the fourth set and built a 15-13 before a 10-2 run to close the match. Bock would hit .667 with four kills while senior Jen Wilson recorded four blocks in the decisive set as NAU became the first Big Sky team to reach double-digit wins for the season.
The Lumberjacks return to the road for their next three matches, opening with their first match at new Big Sky member Southern Utah on Monday at 6 p.m.