WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – One day after forcing Campbell into 17 attack errors, the Northern Arizona volleyball team did itself one better and capitalized on 30 San Jose State errors to its second consecutive sweep to start the 2013 season Saturday morning. The Lumberjacks swept the Spartans, 25-20, 25-19, 25-14, and put themselves in position to claim the Tribe Invitational title this afternoon when they play host William & Mary.
The Lumberjacks, who finished last season 43rd in the country with 2.54 blocks per set, managed just two team blocks in their win over Campbell on Friday, but the block party was in full force in Saturday's matinee event as they totaled 12 team blocks. Junior Taylor Stephens led the way with a career-high eight blocks – one solo and seven assisted – while classmate Sydney Kemper finished one behind with seven. Behind their blocking efforts, NAU limited the Spartans to a .000 hitting percentage as San Jose State managed just 30 kills on 111 total attacks to couple with its 30 errors.
"I was very impressed with our way to keep playing through the rallies with great defense," said head coach Ken Murphy. "Obviously a big key was that we blocked a lot of balls that impacted the way San Jose was playing. To hold them to .000 hitting percentage was a really good thing for us."
The two teams began the match locked in a battle as the first set featured 10 ties and seven lead changes. But NAU took control with the set knotted up at 16-16 when back-to-back kills by freshman Addy Lofstedt and Stephens put the Lumberjacks ahead for good and sparked a 5-1 spurt that propelled the Lumberjacks to the first-set victory.
The late first-set run gave the Lumberjacks all the momentum they needed as they seized control of not only the first set but the rest of the match from there. NAU raced out to 10-3 and 12-4 leads in the second and third sets respectively and put away the Spartans to clinch its second win of the season and the tournament.
Although the Lumberjacks were not as efficient on their offensive end as they were in their season-opening sweep on Friday, they still managed to hit a .248 clip and displayed offensive balance for the second straight match. Six players totaled at least five kills led by Lofstedt's nine and all six took at least 10 swings.
Freshman Jensen Barton orchestrated the Lumberjacks' attack with 25 assists in addition to five kills and nine digs to round out a complete match for the NAU setter. Sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg totaled seven kills and equaled her career-high of 14 digs, which she recorded twice last season. Barton and Vander Ploeg were one of four Lumberjacks with at least nine digs as Kemper and sophomore Trianna Henry also were just one dig shy of 10.
NAU returns to the court this afternoon at approximately 4 p.m. against William & Mary. The Tribe fell in five sets to Campbell to start Saturday's full-slate of matches and is 1-1 having defeated San Jose State, 3-1, on Friday. Should the Lumberjacks win, they will clinch their sixth tournament championship since the start of the 2011 season.