FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – NAU broke the program record for fewest points allowed in a match as Montana totaled just 39 points in a 3-0 (25-8, 25-11, 25-20) Lumberjack sweep on Saturday night in Rolle Activity Center. The Lumberjacks also tied for the second best hitting percentage in a match in program history at .471 to improve to 6-2 in the Big Sky and 14-3 overall while Montana dropped to 3-14 overall and 1-7 in conference play.
The 39 points allowed by NAU broke the previous program record for fewest points allowed in a match of 40, which NAU set earlier this season in a sweep at Weber State. The eight points allowed by NAU in the opening set tied a record set by the team against Rider in 2010, while its .652 hitting percentage in the set was the second best set mark in team history since rally scoring began in 2001. NAU's .471 hitting percentage for the match equaled the second best mark in team history recorded vs Tulsa in 1996, as only a .481 NAU hitting percentage vs Montana State in 1994 was better than what the Lumberjacks hit on Saturday.
"You cannot keep somebody down for an entire match and that's what we kept talking about," NAU head coach Craig Choate said regarding his team's dominant performance through the first two sets. "I expected it but it didn't hurt us. They know they're a good team, but that's one of the humps you have to get over as a program going from good to beating the Northern Colorado's and the Portland State's to prove that we're really good."
The first set was among the most dominant in the history of the program, as after the set was tied at 4-4 NAU went on a 10-2 run to take a 14-6 lead. Freshman Sydney Kemper and senior Lexi Sullivan combined to hit 1.000 in the set with six kills in six attempts and the Lumberjacks did not make a single attack error in the set, extending their 10-2 run with an ensuing 11-2 spurt as Montana hit .077 in the set and NAU finished a 25-8 score.
NAU kept the pressure on as it committed only one attack error in the second set. Montana hit -.040 in the set with six kills and seven attack errors as the Lumberjacks jumped to a 10-4 lead. That advantage ballooned to a 17-7 cushion before the Grizzlies used their second and final timeout of the set. The Lumberjacks did not let up, ending the set on a 6-1 run to take a quick 2-0 lead.
Montana would battle from the start of the third set, staying level with NAU to a 15-15 score. After hitting below .100 in each of the first two sets the Grizzlies hit .258 in the third and trailed NAU by just two points a 20-18. The visitors would get no closer as Kemper ended the match with a kill and a service ace and NAU held Montana to 20 points in the set and 39 in the match as it completed the sweep.
Kemper hit a match-high .692 with nine kills and three blocks while freshman Payton Bock had a match-best 12 kills and six blocks while hitting .524. Sophomore Kalee Kirby totaled 40 assists in just three sets and senior Anna Gott had 15 digs to break the 1,600 dig plateau for her career. NAU had an 11-4 advantage in blocks and totaled a season-best nine service aces while holding Montana to a .110 hitting percentage for the match.
The Lumberjacks are back on the road next week and will face Northern Colorado, which is tied with NAU for third place in the conference with a matching 6-2 Big Sky mark, on Thursday at 6 p.m.