Volleyball Preps for Final Home Week with Big Sky Tourney Bid in Sight
Opponent: Montana (Thursday, Nov. 14/7:00 p.m.)
Opponent: Montana State (Saturday, Nov. 16/7:30 p.m.)
Location: Flagstaff, Ariz.
Live Stats: www.nauathletics.com
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - After a road trip in which they dropped two of their three matches across three states last week, the Northern Arizona volleyball team returns home for their final two home matches of the season. The Lumberjacks will host Montana and Montana State this Thursday and Saturday at the Rolle Activity Center in the final two home matches for their two graduating seniors - Lexie Schroeder and Erin Truett. NAU enters the week tied for third in the Big Sky Conference with Idaho State and is seeking its second consecutive trip to the conference tournament with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
The Lumberjacks picked up a sweep at Eastern Washington last Thursday in between losses at Southern Utah and Portland State. In the team's win over the Eagles, sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg recorded a match-high 17 kills while sophomore Sydney Kemper tallied her fourth double-double of the season with 11 kills and a career-high 15 digs. Freshman Addy Lofstedt led the Lumberjacks with 13 kills last Saturday in their four-set loss at Portland State while classmate Jensen Barton notched her first career double-double with 33 assists and a career-high 14 digs.
Last Time Out: NAU defeated Montana in four sets in Missoula the last time these two teams met a month ago. The Lumberjacks were dominant in all facets of the match as it outhit the Grizzlies .313-.149 and also held advantages in blocks (14.0-8.0) and digs (67-46). The Lumberjacks also set what at the time were single-match season-highs in kills (61) and assists (58). Erin Truett distributed the ball well with 57 assists as three Lumberjacks had double-digit kills led by Sydney Kemper's career-high 19. Three players had at least six blocks led by sophomore Payton Bock's seven and sophomore Trianna Henry and Lexie Schroeder combined for 41 digs, just five shy of Montana's team total.
The win at Montana came one night after the Lumberjacks squandered a 2-1 lead in their five-set loss in Bozeman to Montana State. After dropping the opening set, NAU proceeded to win the next two before the Bobcats rallied to take the final two sets. The loss was the Lumberjacks' first in the series in 13 matches. Both teams hit under .200 in the match with Montana State holding the slight advantage at .191-.186. Janae Vander Ploeg totaled 18 kills and Kemper added 12 to lead the Lumberjacks. Jensen Barton came off the bench to record 35 assists.
TV Coverage: Thursday's match against Montana will be televised by NAU-TV and shown live on Fox Sports Arizona and Fox Sports Arizona Plus. The match will be shown live locally in Flagstaff on Suddenlink cable Channel 4 and online on the NAU-TV live web stream.
Ticket Promotions: Thursday's match will be Club Volleyball Night. All club volleyball teams and players who come to the match in their club t-shirt or uniform will receive free admission. Teams/players must be accompanied by a paying adult or coach for admission. The members of Special Olympics of Northern Arizona will also play a short match during the intermission between the second and third sets on Thursday.
Saturday's match will be the second half of an NAU doubleheader with the NAU football game. All fans who present a ticket from the football game will receive free admission to Saturday's match against Montana State.
Coach Ken Murphy Quote for the Week: "It's important for us to finish our home season strong. We've been able to build confidence when we've been at home and that's carried into our matches on the road. We're looking for another opportunity to keep growing this week."
About Montana (12-13, 9-7 BSC): Montana wrapped up a four-match homestand last weekend as it split against Idaho State and Weber State. The Grizzlies rebounded from a five-set loss to Idaho State to sweep Weber State to cap off a 2-2 homestand. Entering the week, Montana resides in fifth place in the conference with a 9-7 Big Sky mark.
The Grizzlies were led by senior Kayla Reno in the first match between the two teams as she posted 14 kills, one more than junior Kelsey Schile. Reno is fourth in the conference averaging 3.39 kills per set and she is tied for the conference-lead with 10 double-doubles. Senior Kortney James has 10 double-doubles herself and senior Brooke Bray leads the Big Sky's third-leading block. The Grizzlies average 2.58 blocks as a team and Bray, who had five blocks against NAU last month, averages 1.27 blocks per set, tied for first in the conference.
About Montana State (6-21, 4-12 BSC): Montana State swept Weber State last Friday to snap a six-match losing streak and then battled Idaho State before falling in five sets. The Bobcats are currently searching for their first conference road victory this season and is 4-12 in conference play with two weeks left in the season.
Freshman Kennadie Clute leads the Big Sky in kills with 4.45 kills per set and she posted a match-best 31 kills in MSU's victory over NAU in Bozeman. Sophomore Natalee Godfrey is eighth in the conference with a .283 hitting percentage and she contributed 16 kills and five blocks while hitting .538 in the teams' first match. Freshman Anna Sykora handed out 61 assists in the victory and posted a double-double with 11 digs. She was one of five Bobcats with double-digit digs led by senior Nicole Baker's 24.
Murphy's Milestone: After the Lumberjacks' sweep of Eastern Washington last Saturday, head coach Ken Murphy is now one win shy of notching career victory number 100.
Win and They're In: The Lumberjacks can clinch a spot in the Big Sky Championship tournament for the second year in a row with a victory this week. NAU will also seal up a postseason berth with a loss from either Sacramento State or Northern Colorado. It would be the program's 16th appearance in the conference tournament.
Like NAU Volleyball on Facebook
Follow NAU Volleyball on Twitter