FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The NAU Volleyball team (18-3, 10-2 BSC) takes a seven match winning streak into a stretch of four matches in eight days, starting at Sacramento State (8-15, 4-9 BSC) at 1 p.m. Saturday. After a week off NAU plays one road match before hosting Southern Utah on Monday and two more Big Sky home matches next Thursday and Saturday looking to keep pace atop the conference standings.
The Lumberjacks took down Idaho State 3-1 last Saturday, moving into a tie with the Bengals for second place in the conference behind league-leading Portland State. NAU was the only Big Sky team not to play on Thursday as Portland State and Idaho State both added victories. The Vikings play Saturday and next Thursday before coming to Flagstaff next Saturday in what very well could be a showdown for first place in the conference.
After recording a season-high 17.0 blocks vs Idaho State, NAU now ranks 22nd in NCAA Division-I with 2.74 blocks per set. The Lumberjacks have recorded 211.0 blocks through 21 matches this season, just four blocks less than they totaled all last season. NAU has recorded double-digit blocks in six of their last seven matches and have finished with double-digit blocks 12 times this season. Freshman Payton Bock is averaging 1.77 blocks per set during NAU's current seven match winning streak and ranks 55th in the NCAA with 1.26 blocks per set for the season.
An All-Big Sky honorable mention selection as a freshman, Sydney Kemper leads the Big Sky with a .358 season hitting percentage after a superb performance against ISU in which she totaled a career-high 15 kills on a .464 hitting percentage while adding six blocks and two service aces. Kemper has hit better than .380 in 11 matches this season with nine matches at .400 or better. She earned her first career Big Sky Player of the Week honor for her performance at the Molten Classic in Berkeley, Calif. and ranks third on the team with 231.0 total points on the season.
NAU returns to the road this week, a place that they have grown accustomed to this season in playing 16 of 21 matches away from Flagstaff. In winning 13 of those matches (seven road wins, six neutral site wins), NAU has already combined for the most road and neutral site wins in a season since the 1991 team won 16 matches outside of Flagstaff and advanced to the NIVC national championship. The seven road wins this season are the second most in program history and the team is just two road wins shy of the best road win total of nine set in 1991. NAU has also already recorded as many Big Sky road wins (five) as it has totaled in any season since the 2000 team also won five road matches en route to winning the Big Sky championship.
After being swept by Eastern Washington for the Eagles first win of the season on Monday, Sacramento State rebounded with a 3-0 sweep of Southern Utah on Thursday to improve to 4-9 in conference play. Sacramento State hit .395 and allowed only 38 total points in crushing the Thunderbirds for their fourth conference win after defeating Eastern Washington, Weber State, and Montana State earlier this season. The Hornets totaled just 4.0 blocks vs Southern Utah but entered the match leading the Big Sky and ranked fifth in the NCAA with 3.09 blocks per set for the season, with senior Olivia Moss leading the conference with 1.49 blocks per set.
NAU earned a 3-1 win over Sacramento State in its home opener on Sept. 20 as the Lumberjacks held a 16.0-12.0 advantage in blocking and limited the Hornets to a .096 hitting percentage. Senior Kelli Dallmann had 17 kills and 11 digs while Bock had 12 kills on a career-best .556 hitting percentage with eight blocks. The Lumberjacks earned their first win in Sacramento in program history last season and take a three-match winning streak against the Hornets into Saturday's tilt.