FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – NAU senior libero Anna Gott is just 16 digs shy of the career program record as the Lumberjack volleyball team (11-2, 3-1 BSC) continues its challenging early season road schedule with two more road matches on consecutive days in different states, facing Portland State (8-7, 4-0 BSC) at 7 p.m. Thursday and Eastern Washington (0-15, 0-4 BSC) at 7 p.m. Friday.
After playing at Southern Utah on Monday NAU will contest three road matches in five days in three different states this week and will have opened the 2012 season with 14 of 15 matches away from Flagstaff.
"There isn't much preparation, but there's nothing we can do about it so we're not making a big deal about it." head coach Craig Choate said. "If anybody is used to playing on the road by now it's us, so we're traveling good and we'll go play and see what happens."
After playing in Cedar City Monday night the team bused back to Flagstaff Tuesday afternoon before flying to Portland on Wednesday morning, with another flight to Eastern Washington to come on Friday before playing that night. The Lumberjacks spent the first four weeks of the season away from Flagstaff, competing in five states and two time zones, before hosting Sacramento State last Thursday. Following its matches this week, NAU will have played in eight different states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington) through its first 15 matches of the season. The team will play in a total of 10 states during the 2012 regular season with North Dakota and Montana still to come.
Gott is now just 16 digs shy of the NAU career digs record after totaling 51 digs in her last two matches. Gott began the season second all-time in program history with 1,305 career digs and has upped her total to 1,533 to move closer to Chelsea Robb's career digs record of 1,549. She will have a great chance to break the record at Portland State on Thursday, as she has averaged 5.13 digs per set during conference play and has six matches this season with 16 or more digs.
Gott has recorded double-digit digs in 11 matches this season with six matches of 20 or more digs, including a season-high 29 digs at Cal. She is second in the Big Sky this season with 4.75 digs per set and is now 14th in Big Sky history in career digs. She can become the first NAU player to break a career program record since Robb set both the digs and double-doubles records in 2002.
Starting middle blockers Sydney Kemper and Payton Bock rank first and third, respectively, in the Big Sky in hitting percentage in conference matches with both adding 1.13 blocks per set. Kemper leads the Big Sky with a .391 overall hitting percentage and a .408 mark in conference play. She also ranks fourth in the Big Sky with 1.12 blocks per set and has hit better than .380 in nine matches this season with seven matches at .400 or better. Bock is hitting .397 in conference play and is second on the team with 2.53 kills per set. She is also tied for the team lead with 1.13 blocks per set in Big Sky play and has set career highs in kills and hitting percentage in her last two matches.
Portland State handed Northern Arizona its first loss last season, ending NAU's school and Big Sky record 12-0 start to the season with a 3-1 win. The Vikings went 18-13 overall last season and 12-4 in the Big Sky, advancing to the Big Sky Championship title match before losing to Northern Colorado. This year the Vikings lead the Big Sky and are 11th in NCAA Division-I in averaging 17.84 digs per set, which is more than two digs better than the second place team in the conference. With a season sweep of NAU last year Portland State extended its winning streak to 15 consecutive matches after the Lumberjacks opened the all-time series with a 15-2 advantage. NAU has not won in Portland since 2003.
Eastern Washington was picked to finish third in the Big Sky preseason poll, returning five starters in 2012 after going 13-15 overall last year and finishing fourth in the Big Sky with a 9-7 conference mark. The team is 0-15 and 0-4 in the Big Sky and is one of nine remaining winless teams in NCAA Division-I. Nine-year head coach Miles Kydd unexpectedly resigned in late August and the team lost both its setters to injuries early in the season. The Eagles have been swept 11 times this season and rank last in the Big Sky in hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage, assists and kills. NAU and EWU split their season series last year with both teams winning on the road, and the Eagles hold a 34-23 all-time advantage.