Opponent: Sacramento State (Saturday, Nov. 2/7:30 p.m.)
Location: Flagstaff, Ariz.
Live Stats: www.nauathletics.com
Opponent: Southern Utah (Monday, Nov. 4/7:00 p.m.)
Location: Cedar City, Utah
Live Stats: www.suutbirds.com
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The Northern Arizona volleyball team makes a brief stop back at home at the Rolle Activity Center on Saturday versus Sacramento State before hitting the road once again at Southern Utah for the first of three road matches beginning Monday. The Lumberjacks are off to a good start in their current span of five out of six matches away from home after sweeping their first road trip since the opening weekend of the season.
NAU enters the week tied for second place at 9-3 in conference play following a sensational comeback from a 2-0 deficit at Idaho State last Saturday. After the Lumberjacks swept Weber State to begin their road trip, they rallied for their second five-set win over the Bengals this season while handing them their first home loss in 2013. Sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg notched a career-high 22 kills in the win leading four Lumberjacks with double-digit kill totals. Junior Sydney Kemper recorded 13, sophomore Payton Bock had a season-high 11 and freshman Addy Lofstedt chipped in 10 as the Lumberjacks hit. 345 for the match. For the weekend, Vander Ploeg led the way averaging 3.88 kills per set while hitting .304.
Last Time Out: The Lumberjacks suffered their first Big Sky loss of the season at Sacramento State on Sept. 27, losing in four sets to the Hornets. Although NAU picked up the first set, Sacramento State responded by taking the next three as it hit .313 for the match as a team. The Lumberjacks played well offensively as they hit .271 themselves but after the first set, the Hornets hit higher .300 than each of the final three sets. Vander Ploeg led NAU with 14 kills and nine digs while junior Taylor Stephens totaled 10 kills herself in addition to six blocks.
Following the loss, NAU responded by sweeping Southern Utah at home on Sept. 30. The Lumberjacks dominated that match as they allowed a season-low 43 points to the Thunderbirds. NAU hit .311 for the match and held Southern Utah to an .074 clip. Vander Ploeg once again paced the Lumberjacks with 13 kills on .344 hitting while Kemper and Stephens both hit better than .550. Senior Lexie Schroeder made her second start of the season at libero and equaled her career-high at the time with 16 digs.
Ticket Promotions: Saturday's match will be the second half of an NAU doubleheader with the NAU football home game at 4 p.m. All fans who present a ticket from the football game will receive free admission to Saturday's match against Sacramento State.
Coach Ken Murphy Quote for the Week: "The biggest thing is just realizing that we still have big goals ahead of us and there are things we want to improve on. We know Sac State is good because they showed us that the first time we played. We're going to have to be a better volleyball team this weekend when we play them."
About Sacramento State (12-11, 7-5 BSC): Sacramento State heads into the week on a hot streak having won its last three matches, each of which were at home. The Hornets sit in a tie for fifth in the conference standings with a 7-5 Big Sky record after handing Portland State and Eastern Washington four-set losses last week.
In their win over the Lumberjacks at home, the Hornets were led by a trio of players who recorded double-digit kills. Sophomore Sloan Lovett recorded a match-high 20 kills and hit. 342, while freshman Morgan Stanley added 17 and senior Kayla Beal tallied 15 kills. Lovett (third, 3.39) and Beal (seventh, 3.11) both rank in the top-10 in the conference in kills. Senior Hannah Hettinga dished out 53 assists in the first match between the two teams and runs the conference's second-leading team in hitting percentage at .241.
About Southern Utah (2-21, 1-11 BSC): Unlike Sacramento State, Southern Utah is struggling entering the week having dropped its last 13 matches, nine of which have been three-set sweeps. The Thunderbirds fell in five sets at Weber State to end last weekend before a non-conference defeat at Utah Valley on Monday.
Junior Annie Stradling led the Thunderbirds against NAU earlier this season with eight kills while hitting .500 for the match. She also recorded a team-best three blocks. Freshman Sariah Pelaez recorded 12 digs and is currently ninth in the Big Sky with 3.39 digs per set. Sophomore Taylor Heine totaled two blocks in the first meeting between the two teams and is the fourth leading blocker in the Big Sky averaging 1.22 blocks per set.
Murphy's Milestone: In his first season in Flagstaff, head coach Ken Murphy is nearing a milestone as he currently sits at 97 career victories as a head coach. After compiling 82 wins in seven years at UTEP, Murphy is just three wins shy of notching victory number 100 with at least eight regular season matches remaining.
The team's current win percentage of .714 is the second-highest for any head coach in his or her first year at NAU. Murphy only trails Kim Hudson's first-year mark of .765 during the 1991 season.
Like NAU Volleyball on Facebook
Follow NAU Volleyball on Twitter