Volleyball Opens Busy Home Week Monday vs. Southern Utah
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The NAU volleyball team (18-4, 10-3 BSC) will host three matches over a six day span this coming week starting at 7 p.m. Monday vs. Southern Utah (9-16, 5-8 BSC) in Rolle Activity Center. The three home matches represent the longest homestand of the season for the Lumberjacks, who will play five of their seven remaining regular season matches in Flagstaff.
Monday's match will be streamed live for free exclusively on Big Sky TV with NAU athletic media relations student assistant Ryan Lee and graduate assistant Stayson Isobe providing the call. See above for links to the video stream and live stats.
NAU had its seven match winning streak ended on Saturday at Sacramento State as the Hornets battled back from down two sets to none to defeat the Lumberjacks in five. The match was the first time this season that NAU lost after winning the first set, as the team had been 12-0 this year when taking set one. It was also the first time that NAU has lost this season when posting a higher hitting percentage than its opponent as the Hornets hit under .120 in each of the first two sets but had a combined hitting percentage of .370 in the final three sets with just seven total attack errors and 47 kills.
Despite the loss several Lumberjacks recorded career-best days against the Hornets. Senior Anna Gott, the NAU all-time career digs leader, moved to fifth in Big Sky history in career digs with a career-high 35 digs in the match, her third career match totaling 30 or more digs and the fourth highest single match dig total in program history. Freshman Kalee Kirby had a career-high 60 assists along with 17 digs while freshman Janae Vander Ploeg also had a double-double with a career-high 21 kills and 12 digs. Vander Ploeg was one of four Lumberjacks to finish with double-digit kills as freshman Payton Bock posted a career-high 17 kills on a .556 hitting percentage as she committed just two attack errors on 27 swings.
With the setback to the Hornets NAU now stands alone in third place in the Big Sky with a 10-3 conference mark. The Lumberjacks can still clinch their first trip to the Big Sky Championship since 2007 with wins on Monday against Southern Utah and Thursday against Eastern Washington before they host conference-leading Portland State on Saturday. The Vikings sit atop the Big Sky at 13-1 while Idaho State is 12-2 and Northern Colorado is one win back of NAU at 9-5. Portland State and Idaho State both clinched Big Sky championship berths with wins on Saturday.
The Lumberjacks have gone 5-0 at home this season while winning 15 of 19 sets. NAU has hit .237 in its five home dates while holding its opponents to a .101 hitting percentage and posting a 12.47-11.58 kills per set advantage. The team is also averaging more assists (11.47-11.00), blocks (3.63-2.45) and service aces (1.26-1.01) per set than its opponents in home matches and has committed only 82 attack errors while forcing 150 from its opposition.
Southern Utah is battling for a spot in the Big Sky championship and is two wins back of the sixth and final qualifying position. The Thunderbirds were swept by Sacramento State last Thursday then dropped a 3-1 decision in a non-conference match at CSU Bakersfield on Saturday, as the team has lost six of its last seven matches. All five of Southern Utah's conference wins this season have come against teams that are below them in the standings as the team plays its first season in the Big Sky.
The Thunderbirds won the first set against NAU when the teams met in Cedar City on Sept. 24 before NAU won three straight sets for a 3-1 win. Three Lumberjacks posted double-digit kills in that match while Kirby had a double-double with 44 assists and 12 digs. Thunderbird senior Analaine Mailoto, who ranks third in the conference with 3.95 kills per set this season, totaled 24 kills and 14 digs in that match and setter Gabi Mirand had 51 assists and 15 digs. NAU is 8-3 all-time vs Southern Utah but will be hosting the T-Birds for the first time since 1988.