WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – The Northern Arizona volleyball team withstood five William & Mary set points in an eventual second set win and parlayed that momentum right into a third-set blitzing as the Lumberjacks swept their way to a 3-0 start to the season and the Tribe Invitational championship. NAU swept the host Tribe, 25-22, 30-28, 25-10, to clinch its sixth tournament title dating back to the start of the 2011 season.
"The great thing about (the end of the second set) was that we kept fighting and we found ways to score points," said head coach Ken Murphy. "It was a good sign of our growth as a team. When we went into the third set, we regrouped and we scored points in runs. It seemed easy, but we worked really hard to make it look that way. This weekend was a great learning experience for us."
Sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg was named the tournament's MVP and was joined on the all-tournament team by freshmen Addy Lofstedt and Jensen Barton. Vander Ploeg averaged 3.78 kills and 3.56 digs per set while hitting .348. Meanwhile the team's two freshmen had stellar debuts as Lofstedt was second on the team behind Vander Ploeg at 3.44 kills per set and she hit .317 in addition to her 2.11 digs per set. Barton ran the team's offense with high efficiency as NAU hit .316 for the weekend. She averaged 10.44 assists per set and had a dig average of 2.89.
Despite the three-set sweep on the scoreboard, the match itself that was a lot closer through two sets as evidenced by the second set that featured 13 ties and seven lead changes. With the Lumberjacks two points away from claiming a 2-0 advantage in the match at 23-20, the Tribe strung together four straight points and was serving for the set before Lofstedt evened the score at 24-all with a kill.
The home team would have four ensuing shots at evening the match score at one set apiece, but NAU countered each time. Down 28-27, NAU was given side out following a William & Mary attack error and the Lumberjacks would pull out the set with a kill by sophomore Payton Bock and a Tribe set error.
Following its second-set victory, NAU scored 16 of the first 20 points in the third set and did not look back as it led by as much as 16 points in the final stanza. The Lumberjacks hit .519 as a team in the third set to seal up the tournament.
In the first set, the Lumberjacks battled back from an early deficit and strung together six straight points to break a 15-15 tie and create the distance they needed to open the match with a set victory.
Vander Ploeg finished with a match-high 14 kills to go along with 10 digs for her seventh career double-double. Junior Sydney Kemper notched her first career double-double with 11 kills and a career-high 10 digs, while Lofstedt wrapped up her first collegiate weekend with 12 kills. The trio each hit .350 or better for the match, helping the Lumberjacks to a .314 clip as a team. Barton and sophomore Trianna Henry recorded career-highs with 36 assists and 18 digs respectively.
For the weekend, the Lumberjacks hit .316 as a team and limited their three opponents to a miniscule .081 percentage. NAU did not allow its opponents to hit higher than .200 in any of the nine total sets throughout the weekend.
The Lumberjacks will carry their 3-0 record into next weekend's Fiesta Bowl Tournament and will welcome San Diego State, Idaho and Cal State Northridge to the Rolle Activity Center for the two-day tournament starting Friday, Sept. 6.