PORTLAND, Ore. – Playing shorthanded, the Northern Arizona volleyball team was able to pull out a first set victory Saturday night, but Portland State proved to be victorious in the end winning in four sets, 24-26, 25-12, 25-19, 25-17. The Vikings dealt the Lumberjacks their fifth conference loss as NAU will carry an 11-5 Big Sky mark into its final two home matches of the season next week.
"I was really proud of the way we fought tonight," said head coach Ken Murphy. "We were prepared but Portland State was just a little better than us tonight. We know what we can get better at with some of the things that happened tonight. We're going to continue to work as we get close to the end of the season."
The Lumberjacks were without the services of sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg, but that did not stop them from striking first in the match. After the Vikings led throughout most of the first set, the Lumberjacks battled their way back with a 5-1 run to take a 23-22 lead late following a service ace by freshman Jensen Barton. Junior Taylor Stephens knocked down a kill following a PSU point to put NAU in position to take the set before the Vikings responded to force the game to extra points. There, freshman Addy Lofstedt put down her fifth kill of the opening set and the Lumberjacks claimed the 1-0 lead in the match on the following point.
Portland State tied the match by taking control of a second set and running with it. Junior Sydney Kemper's kill brought NAU within one at 11-10, but a 7-0 Viking run was a momentum changer. Following that run, the Vikings led 18-10 and would eventually win 14 of the final 16 points in evening the match score at one set apiece.
The Portland State momentum continued after the intermission as it raced out to a 17-6 lead before NAU kicked it into gear forging a rally. A kill by sophomore Payton Bock sparked a 7-1 Lumberjack run that closed the deficit to 18-13. Three straight Portland State points pushed the lead back out to eight, but NAU once again strung together a nice spurt by winning five of the next seven points to get within five for a second time in the set. However, the Vikings finished off the set quickly thereafter and cut short the Lumberjacks' rally.
The fourth set started even as it was tied 8-8 but a 6-1 PSU run proved to be too much for the Lumberjacks to overcome as it gave the Vikings a 14-9 lead they would not relinquish. NAU would twice be able to get as close as four points before it would eventually suffer just its third loss this season after winning the first set.
Lofstedt led the Lumberjacks offensively with 13 kills for her third double-digit kill performance in her last four matches. Junior Hannah Hill helped shoulder some of the offensive load as well as she recorded a career-high seven kills, a number that was equaled by Kemper for the match. Barton notched her first career double-double with 33 assists and a career-best 14 digs.
Although the Lumberjacks outblocked the Vikings, 11.0-9.0, they could not overcome PSU's .281 hitting percentage and 10-2 advantage in service aces.
NAU (17-8) hosts Montana next Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Rolle Activity Center followed by Montana State next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in its final two home matches.