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October 19, 2013

Volleyball Serves North Dakota First Big Sky Defeat in Sweep

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona volleyball team blitzed North Dakota early and proceeded to post a clean sweep of UND, 25-12, 25-23, 25-22, at the Rolle Activity Center. The Lumberjacks erased the zero in UND's previously unbeaten Big Sky record and snapped UND's 10-match win streak to end the first half of conference play with a 7-3 Big Sky mark.

"We talked about getting into our rhythm right away and establish the things both offensively and defensively that we wanted," said head coach Ken Murphy. "I was impressed with our team's ability to execute from the get-go. I don't put anything past our team and I feel that we when play together and executing, we're capable of really nice things."

Having dropped the first set in their previous three matches, the Lumberjacks refused to let it happen again Saturday night as they stormed ahead 9-3. Although UND closed to 11-8, NAU seized control back with a 6-1 run to push its lead back out to 17-9. The Lumberjacks never trailed in the opening set as they cruised to the early advantage behind an explosive offensive showing. They hit .500 for the set while limiting UND to -.040 while also receiving a pair of service aces from senior Lexie Schroeder and sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg.

The second set began with both teams exchanging the first eight points before junior Sydney Kemper sparked a 6-1 NAU spurt with a kill. The run gave the Lumberjacks a cushion but North Dakota responded by closing within 20-18. However solo blocks by sophomore Payton Bock and Vander Ploeg contributed to three UND attack errors to swing the momentum back in the Lumberjacks' favor as they closed out a tight second set.

Sophomore Trianna Henry and junior Taylor Stephens propelled the Lumberjacks on a 10-0 run to begin the third set that turned the tide in NAU's favor. After UND claimed the first two points before Henry stepped to the service line. Between two aces from Henry and five blocks from Stephens – including on three straight points, the Lumberjacks grabbed a 10-2 lead. UND sliced the lead and kept within two points late into the set. NAU was forced to call a timeout after North Dakota pulled to 23-22, but the Lumberjacks ended any threat there with a kill by Bock and a final UND attack error to complete the sweep.

"We had a tough loss against UNC and we were outplayed," said freshman Addy Lofstedt. "Tonight we knew we had to show everyone that we could do it and that we are still one of the top teams in the conference."

UND entered the match hitting a Big Sky best .261 as a team but the Lumberjacks held them to just a .160 clip for the night. Freshman Jensen Barton ran the NAU offensive attack smoothly as the Lumberjacks hit .299 for the match. They were paced by Kemper and Vander Ploeg who both notched a team-best 10 kills while Lofstedt added nine kills and hit a career-high .562. NAU also held a commanding edge at the net as they recorded 12.0 blocks to UND's 5.0. Stephens led the way with six blocks – four of the solo variety – as Bock and Vander Ploeg both recorded four blocks each. Henry finished with a career-high three aces in addition to a match-high 12 digs.

NAU (13-6 overall) finishes the first half of conference play tied for third in the Big Sky. It begins the stretch run towards the Big Sky Championship next Thursday, Oct. 24 at Weber State before heading to Idaho State on Saturday, Oct. 26.