SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Despite a first set victory, the Northern Arizona volleyball team suffered its first conference loss of the season to Sacramento State Friday night, 23-25, 25-23, 25-19, 25-19. The Lumberjacks hit well for the match at .271, but the Hornets were better at .313 and NAU was also hampered by a season-high 15 service errors in falling to 8-4 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky.
"Sacramento State hit high percentages and we tried to adjust," said head coach Ken Murphy. "We didn't do ourselves any favors by not serving well but we'll learn from this and get ready for next week."
The Lumberjacks claimed the first set after prevailing through a closely contested opening stanza. After NAU put some distance between themselves and the Hornets early in the first set, Sacramento State evened the set at 18-18 forcing an NAU timeout. The Lumberjacks responded with three consecutive points spearheaded by sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg. Vander Ploeg converted on two kills and teamed with junior Taylor Stephens on a block to help turn the tide in NAU's favor. But Sacramento State once again answered with a run of its own, tying the match at 21-21 before the Lumberjacks took the momentum for good one last time. With the Hornets trailing by one at 24-23, junior Sydney Kemper ended the set with a kill.
The second set was evenly contested just as its predecessor with both teams knotted up on seven occasions before either team reached 10 points in the set. The run of the set would come with the score even at 15-15 when Sacramento State rattled of three of the next four points. Although the run gave the Hornets a two-point lead, it was enough as the Lumberjacks were unable to string together a run to forge back ahead. A kill by freshman Jensen Barton tied the set at 22-22, but the Hornets would ensure a split of the first two sets by winning three of the final four points.
After a brief NAU run to take an early 3-2 lead in the third set, a 4-1 Sacramento State spurt put the Hornets ahead for good. The Hornet lead would stretch out to as much as five points at 17-12, but the Lumberjacks would climb back to within two points at 20-18 following a kill by Kemper. But as in the second set, the Hornets finished the third set strong denying NAU a chance to rally further. Sacramento State's 5-1 run from that point in the set gave the Hornets the 2-1 lead.
Following their third set win, the Hornets struck early in the fourth set, racing out to a 13-6 lead. The Lumberjacks would close the deficit on the heels of a 5-0 run highlighted by three consecutive service aces by Kemper. The Hornets erased NAU's run scoring five of the next six points and would eventually seal up the four-set victory.
Although the Lumberjacks hit better than .275 in three of the four sets, the Hornets hit better than .303 in three of their four sets. Vander Ploeg totaled a team-high 14 kills and Stephens also chipped in 10 kills. Barton returned for her first match in two weeks dishing out 32 assists and senior Lexie Schroeder recorded eight digs in her first match of the season at libero. NAU outblocked Sacramento State, 11.0-9.0, and were led by six blocks by Stephens.
The Lumberjacks return to the Rolle Activity Center where they are 4-1 this season on Monday versus Southern Utah at 7 p.m. Monday's match will be the first of three home matches for the Lumberjacks next week.